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Throw Colours to the Wind at the Holi Festival of Colours in India

Published by Courtney McConnell, Writer

Country: India

The Experience

Imagine you're walking down a city street in India. Spring has arrived and the sun is shining brightly. The level of excitement in the air is contagious. From around the corner a child runs out and throws a water balloon at you, giggling as he runs to find his next target. A cloud of colour bursts into the air as you realize that the balloon wasn't just holding water. It was also holding coloured powder in celebration of the Hindu Holi Festival of Colours.

Well-known throughout the world, the Holi Festival of Colours is one of the oldest Hindu festivals observed during the spring season, with adults and children alike taking part in the celebration. Depending on the region, it is also referred to as Holaka, Phagwa, Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi. For those in celebration, Holi is a time to move past winter's gloom and celebrate spring's colours.

The Festival of Colours is celebrated each year in the Hindu month of Phalguna on the day of the full moon at the end of February or early March. The celebration includes bonfires and Hindus showering each other with water and coloured powder. While it's easy to buy colours in today's market, many people will make the colours at home from tesu and palash flowers. The Festival is celebrated by all ages, and shops and offices are routinely closed for the main event, which is the throwing of the colours.

Mythology plays an important role in the Festival, and the most recognized stories of Holi origin relate to 'Holika Dahan' and the Legend of Radha-Krishan. The 'Holika Dahan' tradition is the lighting of the bonfire and celebrates the victory of good over evil. The legend of Radha and Krishna is more about the throwing of colours. Young Krishna was jealous of his beloved Radha's fair complexion, and feeling mischieveous one day he placed colour on her face. To this day, lovers colour one another as an expression of their love.

In India, everyone wants to be the first to shower another with colour during the celebration. Temples are decorated for Holi and an Idol of Radha is placed on swings. Some turn the swings while singing Holi songs of devotion, and across the country everyone wants to take part in the fun while frolicking and becoming intoxicated with the colours. The arrival of spring each year signifies hope and joy to all who take part in the Holi celebration.




When to Go to Holi

Holi is the first major Hindu festival of the year. If you're interested in taking part in the Holi Festival of Colours, head to India between the end of February and mid-March. The Festival will ignite spontaneously in the street from sunrise and rarely stops all day long. You will be in it, and very much a part of it, once the first water bomb flies past your ear.

Odds n' Ends

During the Festival it is very hard to avoid even a mild splash or dusting of colour, and water bombs abound like giant rain drops in a colour storm. Make sure to wear older clothes that you don't mind getting covered in dye... and join in the fun! This festival is nothing short of a competitor sport based loosely on a paintball skirmish, but minus the boisterous war faces. Arm yourself to the teeth with coloured water bombs and bags of coloured powder (bought cheaply from numerous street stalls) and become a part of the festival. Wash your eyes thoroughly if you happen to get any of the powder in them (good idea is to wear sunglasses) and remember to say "Happy Holi!" to everyone.


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Hindi , Portugese , Russian are some of the languages spoken in India. If you know of a freely available phrase book or podcast for one of the missing languages, let us know!


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