If one is to pick an ideal time to experience India, it must be done in March, during Holi. This festival of colors, which has gained popularity around the world, is a sight to behold. It is also one of those celebrations that cannot be observed from afar. Holi is an experience that requires absolute involvement and participation.
So…what are the requirements? An extremely old pair of clothes and the willingness to just let go and have fun.
There was a time, as a child when you really wanted to use your fingerpaints on everything, and not just the paper. There was an urge to get paint all over everything and everyone. Well, even if you never had that urge, one visit to India during Holi can resolve that! For this event is quite literally the Festival of Colors.
A springtime festival, Holi is celebrated across the country. Rejoicing the triumph of good over evil, Holi traces its roots back to the Bhagavata Purana, an Ancient Hindu text. The term Holi comes from the name Holika, sister of the evil King Hiranyakashyap. The story is that Hiranyakashyap, through a boon from the Gods, was near invincible and the resulting power-trip led him to believe that he must be worshipped. His own son Prahlad, a devout bhakt (devotee) of Vishnu, refused to do so. After several attempts of getting his son killed, Hiranyakashyap recruited his sister Holika to get rid of the child. As the story goes, with Prahlad in her lap, she sat on a pyre, much like a funeral pyre, which was set alight. Holika had a special fireproof cloak that was supposed to protect her. Alas, the powers-that-be intervened and saved Prahlad the devotee while the evil Holika was burnt to ashes despite having the protection of her special cloak.
To this day, on the eve of Holi, members of the community gather to burn the symbolic Holika (a communal bonfire) to mark the victory of good over evil.
A no-apprehensions, free-form battle of colors. As a youth, the Lord Krishna was upset that he was dark skinned while the Gopis (his female companions) were fair. His solution was to splash color on all of them as a symbol of love and equality.
Dhulayti or the day of Holi is celebrated with great fervour. In Braj, the birthplace of Krishna, Holi is celebrated for 16 days!
All over India – and even in other parts of the world – Holi is a day of fun and freedom. Members of the community gather to smear powered color on each other in a multitude of shades. Celebrations include food, alcohol, bhang and water and color play. Children and adults alike are seen with water-guns and water balloons. And anyone can be a target. “Bura na maano, HOLI HAI!” meaning, “Don’t take offense, it’s Holi!” is the standard etiquette, as random strangers indulge in the mischief of splashing each other with color and water.
What are these Colors?
Specially prepared powders in various shades that are available in organic compositions as well as slightly chemical (but fairly safe) ones. Some are easy to wash off and some will leave you walking around in the form of a colourful canvas for days.
The signature beverage of Holi is Thandaai. A request of special thandaai with a wink can usually get you bhaang, the cannibis-laced version.
In 2017, Holi is scheduled to be celebrated on March 13th with the Holika Dahan (Holika Burning) Ritual on the evening of March 12th.
Travel plans to India would be ideal during the spring, when one can truly experience the unique traditions of this country in the form of Holi. Whether it is Delhi or Varanasi or Mumbai or Goa, Holi gatherings are fairly easy to find.
Stay tuned for our next post: 8 Most Unique Ways to Celebrate Holi in India
Do you like timing your travel so you can participate in local festivities? Would you like to know more about the different festivals of India? Check out this nifty calendar…