Crimson reds, cobalt blues, deep-sea greens and sunflower yellows colliding together in an explosion of colour. Crowds of people laughing, running, dodging and throwing whilst coated in a rainbow of hues. Sound familiar? Yes, you’re right, Holi is just around the corner. The Festival of Colour, a traditional Hindu celebration marking the arrival of Spring, takes place over 2 days, and this year falls on Thursday 1st– Friday 2nd March.
Traditionally celebrated in parts of India and Nepal, but recently marked by people worldwide, Holi is a celebration of love, fertility and colour. The festival is split into two parts: Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi, both of which include ancient cultural rituals. Holika Dahan is first up – wood and dung-cakes are burned (yummy!) symbolising the victory of good over evil, and people use this as an excuse to have a good old sing and dance around the fire. The final shabang, Rangwali Holi, follows the next morning and sees people gathering in public spaces, chasing each other around with gulal (handfuls of coloured powder) having a whale of a time!
So… what’s it all about?
The main story behind Holi is one of love. Aaaaah. Namely, the legend of Radha and Krishna. Poisoned as a baby, causing his skin to change to a dark-blue colour, Krishna was ashamed of his uniqueness. Growing up, he fell in love with a beautiful fair-skinned girl, Radha, but was convinced she’d never feel the same as he looked so different. But fear not! His mother persuaded him to approach Radha, cheekily painting her face the same colour as his, and from then on she was smitten. Nowadays, lovers colour their faces the same colour during Holi as a way of honouring this story.
Phil, from our local team in North India, got in touch to tell us a bit about how Holi is celebrated there. Here are his thoughts…
“The Hindu festival of Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of Spring in North India. If you are out on the streets during the celebration, it is pretty much compulsory to join in! In smaller places (such as Chandelao and Mandawa in Rajasthan) this can be great fun, but in larger cities such as Delhi and Varanasi the atmosphere can be slightly intimidating, so be aware if you’re venturing out in the morning.
The most raucous Holi celebrations take place in Krishna’s birthplace, Mathura, which lies between Delhi and Agra. Throughout the week leading up to Holi, festivities take place in all of the temples both here and in the nearby town of Vrindavan. This is the best opportunity for photography of Holi celebrations, though visitors can expect to get thoroughly and repeatedly drenched in water and coloured powder!”