India is known for its festivals. No matter when you travel, one thing to be certain of is that a festival has been, or is about to start. If you’re lucky, you have arrived just in time! One festival our India Travel Specialists team like to ensure they are in town for is the Holi Festival. Learn about the origins of this festival, what it looks like today and why you simply have to experience Holi for yourself!
When is it?
Holi celebrates many things, but one of those is the ending of winter and beginning of spring. Although usually celebrated in March or late February, the dates of the festival are set by the lunar calendar and vary year to year. The festival lasts from the evening to the end of the following day.
The Meaning Behind the Festival
Holi is grounded in various legends and is a celebration of good overcoming evil. It stems from the story of Prince Prahlad, who refused to worship his father as a god. He instead turned to the Hindu god, Vishnu. Angered by his defiance, the King and his daughter, Holika, plotted to kill Prahlad. Holika, who had a cloak that made her immune to fire, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her and then lit it. As the flames grew, Holika’s cloak flew from her to Prahlad’s shoulders. He survived the flames and she perished in the fire.
Afterwards, Vishnu appeared to him in the form of a half-human and half-lion. Holi Festival takes its name from Holika, representing evil, and the good of Vishnu and Prahlad triumphing over her.
Holi is also known as the “festival of love”. It is thought that this originates from the story of the god, Krishna, and his love, Radha. Krishna had dark blue skin and complained to his mother that he yearned to have lighter skin like his love. She suggested that he paint Radha’s face any colour he please. He did, and their love remained strong. It is believed that this is why coloured powder, known as “gulal” is thrown today.
Holi Festival Today
The first evening of Holi is Holika Dahan. It is celebrated around bonfires, which are built in the days prior. An effigy of Holika is placed upon these pyres, symbolising Vishnu overcoming evil in order to save Prahlad.
The following day is Rangwali Holi– you may know it as the “Festival of Colours”! People flock to the streets with pockets full of gulal, coloured water and water balloons, ready to douse each other in the vivid colours. Despite now being mainly made synthetically, powders were originally made with natural ingredients such as turmeric, beetroot and berry powder. Each colour represents a different meaning:
Where to Celebrate
India is a big country and deciding where to celebrate this exciting event may seem a challenge. Although you may be tempted to join the largest Holi celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan, the Indian Travel Specialists suggest travelling north to Rajasthan. Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Pushkar and Jodhpur are all great places to experience this unique event from.
Furthermore, we recommend staying away from large crowds on the street. Join a private party with people you know (your hotel may be hosting one) or throw one of your own! Unfortunately, the festivities can encourage drunken behaviour and there can be safety issues.
Holi Top Tips
Holi is a truly unique festival and one that brings people together from all parts of India, as well as all over the world. This is a truly incredible event that is a must do when in India.
If you’d like to experience the Holi Festival and explore India but aren’t sure where to begin, the India Tours and Travel Specialists 15 day “Escorted India Tour Including The Holi Festival” may be perfect for you!