The Hindu festival of colors is celebrated at the end of winter, on the last full moon of the month Phalguna.
Holi, also known as Basantotsav or Dol Jatra, is one of the great celebrations of the Hindu world. This year, Holi begins on March 6.
The festival usually starts with prayers and bonfires, and on this day, people throw colored liquids and powder at each other, while greeting each other with “Happy Holi”.
The social rules of the festival are quite relaxed in India, as it is common for people to be thrown into muddy water or to be splashed with water by passers-by. On this day, people consume an intoxicating drink called bhang, which is made from the female cannabis plant.
All types of people participate to the festival, belonging to all races, ages, genders or castes. Almost any kind of behavior is tolerated on this day, as the Hindu saying goes: “don’t mind, it is Holi”.
It is also a time of sharing gifts and spending time with the family. People decorate their houses for the event and eat special foods, making Holi one of the most loved festival of the Hindu calendar.
The tradition originates from Hindu sacred text and stories about Holi have been passed from generation to generation. It commemorates the story of Prahlada, a young boy who was a devotee of god Vishnu.
According to the stories, Prahlada was a son of the king of demons Hiranyakashipu. Angered by his son’s devotion to Vishnu, the demon tried to kill Prahlada several times, but failed each time. The last time, Hiranyakashipu asked his son to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister, Holika, who also was a demon and had protection against fire.
Prahlada obeyed his father’s command and escaped unharmed, while Holika burned to death. This story is continued today through the lighting of bonfires during the celebrations.
Holi also celebrates the love between the divine couple in the Hindu religion, that of Radha and Krishna. The Hindu god of love, Kama, is also a main character in the festival, as people from across all India have their own traditions and interpretations of Holi.
In recent years, Holi was adopted in Europe as a form of music festival.
Image Source: Holione