I am a traveler/backpacker, writer/editor, amateur photographer, yoga enthusiast, and music aficionado living and working in Mumbai, India. Read about my travels in India and elsewhere at https://nomadicrhythms.wordpress.com/
Indian festival of colors, a celebration of spring and love
Holi, the festival of colors, is one of many festivals in India. It is celebrated in many communities across the country, now even more so with those who do not traditionally celebrate it joining in for some fun and a good time with loved ones. It is a celebration of spring, of the victory of good over evil (Myth salvation of the devotee Prahlad, and burning of the demon Holika by Lord Vishnu), and of life itself! It is mainly observed in India, although it now spreading to countries everywhere, thanks to inter-mingling and migration of people all over the world.
Holi is observed on the last full moon of the winter, usually in late February or March, in the month of Phalguna according to the Hindu calendar. This year, it falls on the 26th and 27th of March. It is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, but everyone who wants to have some fun is welcomed with open arms and a spray of colors! Some revelries last for a day, some for two, and some others for over a month, and involve dousing each other with color and water, and drinking copious amounts of an intoxicating brew called bhaang!
Each region and community has its own way of celebrating this occasion. Some burn effigies, organize special prayers and sweet offerings; some play with colors and drink intoxicants; some others engage in playful games between men and women. But everyone who joins in the festivities is guaranteed a great time and loads of fun! A word of caution, though, is that since people get drunk many times during these festivities, it is advisable to celebrate with groups of people that you trust as opposed to total strangers.
The festivities are seen as a welcoming of spring, the season of love. On the eve of the fest, effigies of Holika are burned as a symbolic gesture of the event that the festival marks. An offering is made to Agni, the Fire God, by using harvested plants and twigs for making the effigies as a prayer for well-being and prosperity, mainly observed by farming communities.
The following morning, large groups of people get together to douse each other with colors, water and to generally have a good time. This is a celebration that blurs the lines of gender, class and caste and, in many places, people of different social, cultural, and religious groups come together to revel in the joy of spring, life and love.
As with most festivals, there are lots of sweets and special foods prepared and distributed. A big meal is cooked after everyone is done playing with colors and water. This typically includes bhaang, as well as sweets like kheer and payasam (milk-based preparations), malpua (a kind of pancake), holige (a sweet flatbread) along with a number of savory snacks.
Believe in the myths and legends or not, the celebrations on this occasion help bring families and loved ones together to spend some memorable time together, bond and have a great time. It strengthens relationships and builds new ones, and creates a sense of positivity and well-being in all those who decide to be a part of this celebration of life and love!