The Festival of Colors: Holi

March 1, 2018 Author: munishmishra04_3od47tgp
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Holi is one of the most important festivals of India. Like any other festival in India, Holi festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm, gaiety and communal spirit. What particularly marks this festival is the spirit of friendliness it evokes among people. By the very nature of how it is observed, by throwing colors at each other in a good natured way, this festival is known to dissolve away years of misgivings among people by infusing them with a spirit of fun and enthusiasm. Holi is observed with particularly feistiness in Northern parts of India but provides much excitement in several other regions.

About Holi Festival

Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the arrival of spring. Known widely as the Festival of Color, it takes place over two days, and is a celebration of fertility, color, and love, as well as the triumph of good versus evil.

Holi, a traditional Hindu festival which celebrates the beginning of spring as well as the triumph of good over evil, begins tomorrow. It is best known around the world for the powder that revelers throw on each other, leaving festival-goers coated in colour by the end of the day. Although the festival originated in India and is still widely celebrated there as a religious festival, it has been adopted in many places around the world.

Holi is wild and raucous, a frolic of friendly playfulness. During Holi, India’s streets are overtaken by crowds awash with colored powder. Not only clothes, but faces, arms and hair are smeared and sprayed with every color of the rainbow. People sing, dance, play, hug each other and smile with such child-like joy that it makes one wonder where so much happiness comes from! No religious festival in the world compares to Holi in terms of engaging young and old alike. It is a celebration of love, forgiveness, hope and just plain fun.

How does the festival start?

Many communities create a central bonfire on the night before Holi, starting with kindling and logs and adding organic debris as they clean up their property. The fi re symbolizes the torching of negative or troublesome experiences and memories. An effigy of Holika, a demoness personifying negativity, is consigned to the flames, and freshly harvested barley and oats are offered. The embers are collected to light sacred fires, and the ashes are used to mark the forehead as a blessing.

Holi Celebration

Figure 1: Holi Celebration

On the eve of Holi, people gather at important crossroads and light huge bonfires. This particular ceremony is called Holika Dahan. At this time, children are allowed to play pranks and visit the neighborhood singing songs that ask for treats.

Celebration of Holi is particularly boisterous in Northern parts of India, with people throwing colored powder or water at each other in gay abandon, causing loud bursts of laughter and merriment in the process. Ill feelings among people get washed away as they smear each other with color and laugh at their achievements in making each other looking funny and ridiculous. This custom of throwing colors appears to have evolved from the legend of Lord Krishna who expressed his love to his beloved consort “Radha” by smearing color on her forehead. This action still appears to invoke feelings of mutual love and fellowship among people observing Holi.

Songs, dance on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies are other highlights of the day. In addition to delicacies, people are likely to indulge in an intoxicating substance “Bhang” (cannabis) mixed in with food, arousing much laughter and merriment among onlookers.

Significance of Holi Festival

Several legends leading to this festival abound. The traditional lighting of a bonfire, “Holika Dahan” is marks the end of evil, personified by the sister of the demon King Hiranyakashyap who demanded is probably related to the evil actions of the Demon King, Hiranyakashipu, who wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship him as God. His own son “Prhalad refused to do so, and instead, became a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap tried to punish his son by placing him in the lap of his sister ‘Holika” and setting fire around him. Holika had a boon that she would never burn from fire; however, this time she was burnt to ashes while Prahalad remained unscathed by the grace of God Vishnu. In South India, people worship Kaamadeva- the god of love and passion for his extreme sacrifice. Some other legends persist in other parts of India; however, they all celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

Holika Dahan

Figure 2: Holika Dahan

Here are some interesting facts about Holi Festival

  • There is a slightly different version of history associated with Holi. It is said that Lord Krishna, owing to his bluish skin complexion was skeptical about whether the beautiful Radha and her gopikas will find him attractive. His mother, Rukmini, fed up of this incessant insecurity finally convinces him to approach her and cover her in any colour he likes. Lord Krishna does exactly that and since that day, Holi is commemorated as the festival of love.
  • It marks the passing of winter and beginning of spring. But, there is a rich history behind this colorful festival.
  • Holi is the only day Indian kids have official permission to get filthy! Indian parents are notorious for their obsession with cleanliness, especially so in the case of their children. But, come Holi, all that flies out of the window. They can drown each other in colours, use spray gun, water balloons and what-nots!
  • For a society that bore the despicable label of untouchability for centuries, Holi was the silver lining that ascertained brotherhood and equality.
  • In a world filled with religious fanatics, you will hardly find another religious festival celebrated universally, cutting across religious and national barriers. It is as if the colours have the power to melt away social, cultural and religious differences.


[1] “The Festival of Holi”, available online at:

[2] “Holy Days That America’s Hindus Celebrate”, available online at:

[3] “10 Most Interesting and Unknown Facts about Holi Festival”, available online at:



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