What Is the Holi Festival?

Colored powders are used to celebrate the Holi Festival.
Colored powders are used to celebrate the Holi Festival.

What Is the Holi Festival?

Holi is an annual Hindu festival held in the spring to signify the triumph of good over evil, the end of winter, and the arrival of spring. For many, it is a festival to meet friends, mend relationships, and to forgive and forget. The Holi Festival is sometimes referred to as the Festival of Love or the Festival of Colors. In the recent past, the festival has attracted attention and inspired the Color Run and the Birmingham’s Holi Rave. The festival is characterized by the use of colored powder that people pour on their bodies.

History of the Holi Festival

Holi Festival is an ancient Hindu festival that dates back to the 4th century. The festival has been documented in archives dating back to the 4th and 7th century, and by the 17th century, it had already fascinated European traders.

Why the Use of Color?

According to Hindu Legend, King Kansa sent demoness Holika to kill the god Krishna using her poisonous milk while he was still a baby because he believed Kirshna would grow up and kill him instead. Instead of the poisonous milk killing the baby, he drank the milk and sucked all her blood, which caused the demoness to burst into flames. The baby survived but turned blue. As he grew up, he feared that his blue color would make the fair-skinned goddess Radha fail to fall in love with him. He applied color to Radha’s face so they would look the same, and still today it is still considered a way of expressing love to one another. There are at least eleven different colors which are used at the festival. All of the colors are corn starch based, are biodegradable, and do not pose any environmental problems.

Where Is it Celebrated?

The Holi Festival is primarily a Hindu festival, mainly celebrated in India and Nepal. Despite being a Hindu festival, it is celebrated by other religions including the Jains, Sikhs, and the Buddhist Newar people of Nepal. The day of the festival is considered a national holiday in India and a regional holiday in Nepal. In 2016, the Pakistani parliament passed a law that declared the Holi Festival among the Hindu and the Easter festival among Christians as national holidays. The Holi Festival is also celebrated by Hindus worldwide, although not recognized as holidays by respective governments.

When Is it Celebrated?

The Hindu calendar decides the date of the Holi Festival. In most cases, it is determined by the position of the moon,, but in other situations the sun is used. In 2017, the festival was held on March 13th, and the next festivals will probably be held on March 2, 2018 and March 21, 2019.

How Is it Celebrated?

Days before the festival is held, wood and other combustible materials for the bonfire are gathered. At the top of the pyre, an effigy that depicts the demoness Holika is placed. People stock up on foods, drinks, and other festive requirements. At sunset on the eve of the festival, the pyre is lit and demoness Holika is set on fire to signify the triumph of good over evil. People spend the night around the bonfire singing and dancing. In the morning people do not engage in the normal prayer, but instead they party and enjoy the morning. They form groups armed with dry powder and fill balloons with colored water. People smear each other with dry powder, they sing, dance, and play drums and other instruments for the rest of the day. In northern India, the festival can last up to a week. At the end of the day people clean their houses, wash up, and dress for the evening when they visit friends and exchange sweets and other presents.


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