Bid the grey of winter a relieved farewell and welcome spring with a burst of color. The roots of this increasingly popular Technicolor pastime lie in the Hindu festival of Holi – an annual celebration held on the first day of spring. Holi is a festival of colors and has many dimensions. It symbolises Respect, Friendship and Love, which Lord Krishna believed.
Many places around the world are starting to adopt the Holi celebration with events and bashes being held at local clubs, streets and festivals. It is a tradition being carried on with fun and excitement with water guns, powdered paint, music and traditional food and drink. Be warned it is very messy, but in the right atmosphere it can be started as an annual symbolic event. Lada Ray, along with her friend Pranjal, explain the meaning of Holi celebrations and its traditions.
“Everywhere around the world, Hindus celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors, a popular springtime festival observed on the last full moon of the lunar month. Participants traditionally throw bright, vibrant powders at friends and strangers alike, celebrating the arrival of Spring and allowing everyone a momentary freedom. Winter is over and spring arrives as nature awakens with its abundance of colors, joy and generosity. This is what this beautiful and flamboyant festival is all about.”
“In the old days, the colors for Holi were made out of petals of bright local flowers. The flowers were dried up and then powdered, until they turned into the very fine and colorful dust. The symbolism behind it was wonderful: when you rubbed the flower powder into your skin, you imbued yourself and your dear ones with the beneficial energy and natural essence of that flower, along with its vibrant scent, color and growth. And when you tossed the flower powder in the air or at your friends, you generously shared the abundance and prosperity the flower symbolized with the entire world. Unfortunately, the colors used today tend to be artificial, so at least some of the benefits of this beautiful ceremony are lost.”
“Along with bright colors, a lot of water is used during the festival. Sometimes, people are doused with whole buckets of water, as shown in the picture below. This is interesting to me. While the vibrant colors symbolize the awakening of nature and the blossoming of flowers, the symbolism of water is undoubtedly this: in the spring, you need to water plants in order for them to grow and deliver abundant crops. If you start the spring right, ushering in this new energy of growth and life, the whole year will be abundant and successful! Beautiful symbolism, if you ask me!”
Pranjal mentions, “Traditionally, at dawn of the 2nd day of Holi, the young must greet the Elders. They respectfully apply colours to the Elders and receive Ashirwaad (Blessings) by touching the Elders’ feet.”
“The festival ends with same, with which it started: Worship of Lord Krishna’s image. But it starts with Villagers going to NaamGhor to offer prayer. At the end of the 2nd day, the Holly Idol of Krishna goes house to house, where people welcome him with prayer and offerings. This marks the end of the Festival of Holi.”
Steve English from the blog The Looptail has experienced first hand Holi celebrations.
“Where I come from (Canada), the end of winter is typically celebrated with a premature rush to the basement to dig out the shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops. Sure, the temperature may still be in the single digits, but after months of twilight, sleet and runny noses, that first hint of spring…. Well, it drives you a little mad. Maybe it’s the feeling of renewal or the freedom that comes from the ritual casting off of heavy coats, but spring-induced delirium is a universal thing. The craziest celebration of all has to be the Hindu festival of Holi, essentially a messy three-day street party-slash-water balloon fight. In cities and villages across the region, participants fill the streets and public squares armed with buckets, balloons and syringes filled with dyed water (some just skip the receptacles entirely and chuck whole fistfuls of coloured gulal powder) and basically just have at each other in a riotous spectacle of colour-flinging mayhem.”
- “If you want to stay clean, stay home.”
- “Locals love to involve foreigners in the celebrations. If you look like you’re not from the area, you will become a target. Don’t fight it!”
- “Dress accordingly.”
- “Participants are encouraged to use dye that doesn’t stain, but not everyone does. Expect the clothes you’re in to be completely ruined. We went to a nearby market and bought ourselves all-white outfits so we’d have a blank canvas to fill in.”
- “Get used to looking weird.”
- “The dye doesn’t wash off easily, so expect to be very colourful for a few days. Most people will be in the same condition as you, so don’t worry about fitting in!”
- “Bring a waterproof camera.”
- “Holi is messy and quite wet. If you plan on taking pictures, make sure your equipment can stand up to the challenge.”