What Is Holi and Why Is It Celebrated?

The festival of colors, Holi, is the liveliest of any Hindu festivals. It marks the end of winter in India and welcomes the spring season. On this holiday, people play with colors, meet and greet and create new beginnings.

Popular Myths Behind the Holi Celebrations

Like every festival in the country, Holi is linked to popular legends. These interesting stories tell the history behind the various festival rituals.

The Story of Holika Dahan

Legend has it that once there was a mighty king named Hiranyakashipu. He was a devil and his cruelty was hated. He saw himself as God and wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship him. However, his own son Prahlada refused to worship his father. Enraged by his son’s disobedience, Hiranyakashipu tried to kill his son several times but nothing worked. Later, the king sought help from his evil sister, Holika. Holika had the ability to immunize against fire. So he tricked him into sitting by a fire in order to kill Prahlada. However, due to his demonic intentions, his power was neutralized and he turned to ash. On the other hand, Prahlada gained this immunity and was saved. Therefore, the first day of the Holi Festival is celebrated as Holika Dahan and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

The Story of Radha and Krishna

When Krishna was a baby, he assumed a distinctive blue tan after drinking the demon’s toxic breast milk. He was worried and upset about whether other people would love him because of his color. Unable to bear his sadness, Radha began to paint her face in any color she wanted. So they both became a couple, and since then people have started playing with colors in Holi.

How is Holi Festival Celebrated in India?

Celebrating the Holi colorful festival involves many rituals. A few days before the festival, people start collecting wood and other combustible materials for the bonfire. Flammable materials are then collected in a nest in colonies, community centers, parks or other open areas. On top of the fire, a Holika legend is placed to be cremated according to legend.

Holika Dahan

The first day of the festival is celebrated as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi. After sunset people gather around the air, do puja (pray) and then burn it. People even sing and dance around the air, as it symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

Playing With Colors

The second day of Holi is called Rangwali Holi, Dhulandi, Dhulandi, Phagwah, or Badi Holi. This is the day when people apply color to each other, party and have fun. Children and teenagers play in groups with dry color called abir or gulal, pichkaris (water gun), water balloons filled with colored solutions, and other creative things. In the streets you can find a group of people with drums and other musical instruments, dance and sing from one place to another.

Special Treats

Gujiya is a special dessert made in every home in India during the Holi period. It is a dumpling stuffed with khoya (dairy products) and dried fruit. The traditional drink of Holi is thandai, which usually contains bhang (cannabis). Other mouthwatering flavors include gol gappe, papri chaat, dal kachori, kanji vada, genius bhalle, chole bhature and namkeen.

After Party

After playing with colors throughout the day, people clean themselves, take a bath, sober up and get dressed. Later, they visit their relatives and friends and greet them for the festival.

Where Is The Best Place In India To Celebrate Holi?

To experience the best of the Holi festival in India, one should go to Uttar Pradesh and more specifically to areas that are particularly close to Lord Krishna such as Braj, Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon. All of these regions become quite touristic during festival time.


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