Holi, aka the Festival of Colours, is a traditional and vibrant Hindu festival celebrated in India and Nepal and in Hindu communities throughout the world. This year Holi falls on 27 March 2013.
Holi is a beautiful and happy demonstration of some of the finest qualities of Indian culture. Some communities in India celebrate Holi for as long as 40 days, but it is mostly a 3 day event. Officially, Holi always begins the day after the full moon in March. This year, in 2013, Holi will begin on March 27. Most often, it is known as the Hindu “Festival of Colours.” Holi is a high spirited and vigorous celebration rejoicing in the new season of spring. Originally, Holi’s purpose was to celebrate good harvest, the ending of winter and the beginning of spring and has always been a celebration for every member of Indian culture regardless of social status. The Holi festival has evolved from a religious celebration into a jubilant cultural event known around the globe as a lively and animated occasion and one of the best times to be a tourist in India.
The name ‘Holi’ means festival of colours and the Holi celebration involves a great amount of splashing one another with colored water and pastes. It is valued as great fun. The joy and colour symbolize the victory of good over evil. Celebrations often start with bonfires which signify the burning of evil spirits. Some organize major cultural events around this holiday including fabulous presentations of music and dance. Many communities put a lot of resources into their Holi celebrations and Holi has become an economic boost for quite a few regions in India.
Several cities offering extraordinary Holi celebrations that would be well worth a visit are:
• Mathura and Vrindivan (about 4 hours from Delhi) celebrate Holi for 40 days with ongoing performances of Holi Folk songs and plays.
• In Delhi, the Holi celebration is known to be very modern and somewhat rowdy. It is called the “Holi Cow” festival and has many events that include Disc Jockeys and band performances. In Delhi, if you walk in town, shop keepers will splash passers-by with nontoxic colorful water. In West Bengal, the Vishva Barati University hosts an expansive cultural event one day before the official Holi.
• Jaipur celebrates Holi with an elephant festival including an elephant parade, elephant beauty contest and elephant tug of war.
Some Holi celebrations are more subdued and religious but most are boisterous and full of vitality and energy. This is a very carefree time and normal boundaries of caste and gender are ignored or at least subdued and everyone is encouraged to participate regardless of social status. A paste called “bhang” made from the leaves and buds of the female cannabis plants is consumed by many, as they have traditionally consumed for centuries as part of ayurvedic practices.
If you have the good fortune to travel to India, be sure to go during Holi!