Holi is a traditional festival of colors and a vibrant celebration in India. It ranks among the oldest festivities, referenced in ancient Sanskrit texts and elaborated upon in the Vedas. Holi heralds the arrival of spring, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil and the renewal of life. It coincides with the Bengali New Year according to the Hindu calendar. The festival of colors, Holi, is celebrated the day after the full moon in early March each year, lasting three days. Embrace the joy of this splendid festival yourself! Book affordable flights and travel to India with WowFare!
Date: March 25 (2024 – March 25)
The Legends of Holi
One of India’s most significant festivals is the Holi festival, celebrated nationwide. The origins of Holi are rooted in several legends. According to one legend, the festival’s name derives from the demoness Holika.
Prahlada, a Hindu saint and a character from the Puranic texts of Hinduism, is celebrated as a devout follower of Vishnu. Born in the Satya Yuga to the great demon Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada faced severe persecution from his father. In an attempt to kill Prahlada, Hiranyakashipu placed him in a pyre with his sister, Holika, who was believed to be immune to fire due to a special blessing.
However, as Prahlada chanted Vishnu’s name, he remained unharmed while Holika was consumed by the flames. This event is commemorated during the Hindu festival of Holi, symbolizing the victory of good over evil, traditionally marked by lighting bonfires.
The day also celebrates the eternal love between the god Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and Radha. According to legend, a young Krishna complained to his mother, Yashoda, about the contrast between Radha’s fair complexion and dark skin. Yashoda suggested he color Radha’s face with vibrant powder to see her complexion change. Radha and her friends retaliated by chasing Krishna with sticks, leading him back to his hometown of Nandagram (Nandgaon). This playful tradition continues today in Barsana and Nandgaon.
The legend of Kamadeva, another story associated with Holi, involves the god Shiva, a principal deity in Hinduism. Once, as Shiva meditated, Kamadeva, the god of love, decided to test his resolve by appearing to him as a beautiful nymph. Recognizing Kamadeva, Shiva became enraged and incinerated him with fire from his third eye. Kamadeva was later reborn as a son of the god Krishna. Now, many people worship Kamadeva during Holi, offering mango blossoms and sandalwood paste as sacrifices.
Before the festival begins, homes and streets are adorned with flags and garlands, with orange symbolizing fire, being the predominant color in the decorations.
On the first day, effigies are burned in bonfires, and people walk over coals. They sprinkle each other with color and flower petals the following day, splash colored water, and sing songs.
There’s an intriguing tradition that people might find unusual. Women hit men with sticks without any repercussions, and the men hardly resist. This is related to the legend that Krishna visited the town of Vrindavan to provoke jealousy in his beloved, recalling his playful times with the gopis. However, the wise women, instead of falling for the provocation, beat him with sticks.
Additionally, Hindus enjoy a festive drink called bhang. It’s made from soured goat’s milk, rose water, sugar, spices, and a paste made from cannabis leaves. Besides its mild psychoactive effects, bhang is believed to improve digestion and aid in sleep normalization.
- The colorful powder is called “gulal,” and it symbolizes the ashes of Holika. Additionally, it has antiviral properties and purifies the air, as it’s made from medicinal herbs.
- Vishnu assigned a main festival to each of the four castes. Holi was given to the lowest caste, but it became popular.
- During these days, the concentration of colors in the air is so high that breathing can become difficult. Some people need to cover their faces with scarves to protect their lungs.
- The more one is covered in color, the more favorably fate is believed to treat them, for gulal on the body and clothes during the festival symbolizes the Gods’ love.
Places to Celebrate Holi
Mathura, Vrindavan, India
Travel to India to trace back Holi’s origins, where Lord Krishna is believed to have played Holi with Radha and his friends. So, it’s only natural that the celebrations here are considered to be the most authentic and traditional. On the main day, people gather in the streets, temples, and squares, throwing colored powder, gulal, and pichkari water guns at each other, creating a vibrant and joyous atmosphere. The celebrations go on all day and night, with traditional music, dance, and bonfires adding to the merriment.
Delve into the heart of Holi in Delhi, where ancient traditions meet modern exuberance. Witness the iconic Holika Dahan bonfire at Pragati Maidan, followed by vibrant street celebrations in vibrant neighborhoods like Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh. Immerse yourself in the energetic rhythms of dhol drums and lose yourself in the colorful chaos, a true sensory overload in the best way possible. Travel to India and enjoy the color fights firsthand to get the most out of the festival.
Udaipur’s Holi celebrations are known for their royal touch. The Mewar Maharajas used to celebrate Holi with great pomp and show, and their legacy continues today. The highlight of the celebrations is the Mewari Holika Dahan, where a huge bonfire is lit in the evening, symbolizing the burning of the demoness Holika. The next day, people gather in the City Palace Complex for a colorful procession led by the Maharaja himself. The procession winds its way through the city, with people throwing colored powder and water at each other.
London, United Kingdom
Holi is becoming increasingly popular in London, with several events taking place across the city. This is the perfect option for people who can’t travel to India to take part in this festival. The biggest event is the Holi One London festival, which is held in Wembley Park. The festival features live music, dance performances, food stalls, and, of course, plenty of colored powder. Other events include the Holi Hai at Trafalgar Square and the Holi Bash at the Camden Roundhouse.
These are just a few of the many places around the world where you can celebrate Holi. If you’re looking for a unique and colorful way to experience Indian culture, Holi is definitely worth checking out. Pack your bags, embark on a journey, and create memories that will last a lifetime. And let Wowfare take care of all your travel planings! Happy travels!