Holi is a Hindu spring festival in India and Nepal, also known as the festival of colors or the festival of sharing love.
Holi is a two-day festival which starts on the Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Bikram Sambat Hindu Calendar, month of Falgun, which falls somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar. The first day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi and the second as Rangwali Holi,Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire where people gather, do religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil should be destroyed as the bonfire starts. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all carnival of colours, where participants play, chase and colour each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw coloured powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. Some drinks are intoxicating. For example, bhang, an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into drinks and sweets and consumed by many. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up and visit friends and family.
Fun Facts about Holi Festival
- Legend has it that Holika, the sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap, attempted to help her brother take his young son Prahlad’s life. Holika had been blessed such that she could not be harmed by fire. So, she lures Prahlad on to her lap and enters a huge bonfire. However, Prahlad who was a devotee of Naarayan breaks this spell by reciting his lord’s name and comes out of the fire unscathed, while Holika burns to death. The name Holi comes from Holika.
- In Kathmandu, one week before the main Holi celebration, a Chir (bamboo pole) covered with colorful clothes is erected in Basantapur Durbar Square. On the eve of Holi, it is taken down and burnt to symbolize the death of the evil Holika.
- The central ritual of Holi involves colours and lots of it! Revellers smear each other with colored powders as they celebrate the festival with their family and friends. In bigger cities, there are Holi parties where attendees can play with colors, indulge in water fights, dance, eat and drink until sundown.
- In Nepal, water balloon and water pistol fights begin a week early, as kids pellet each other with colored water balloons and practice their target on passerbys. It is frowned upon to scream at the kid who lands a Bull’s Eye on your back. However, it is perfectly acceptable to reciprocate with a water balloon of your own, with a ‘Happy Holi!’.
- Wearing white is generally deemed ‘apt’, for the colors can better ‘pop’ on a blank canvas. However, practicality-wise stick to something you might not wear again, as the colors do not come off easy.