If India wasn’t colourful enough you’ll never experience a more vibrant occasion than during the country’s festival of Holi which begins today. Holi involves an exuberant casting of pastel coloured powder on friends, family and every passer by with each colour symbolising a particular sentiment (see below). A little like Thailand‘s Songkran festival where people take to the streets with water-guns and any manner of soaking device, yet far more colourful.

Happiness in the air (Image: RT.com)

As the morning of Holi dawns, people gather in the streets wearing old clothes and proceed to smear coloured powder over each other. Over the years the level of exuberance and celebration has come to include the throwing of eggs and raw tomatoes, fizzing colour mixes that froth and bubble in water, coloured water balloon fights and the new and more recent colour additions of black and silver which resist fading even after bathing. Some households prepare Bhang ki Thandai a cold milk based drink prepared with ground marijuana leaves mixed with almonds and spices, to add to the uninhibited spirit of celebration.

Govt. Authorised bhang shop

Govt. Authorised bhang shop (Source: Wikipedia)

If you have ever considered planning a trip to India, this is a great time to coincide a visit. Celebrated throughout the country, the festival of Holi is a particularly entertaining and fun experience. Historically, Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, when agricultural produce is abundant and the land is fertile. People smear colour on each other to celebrate the coming of spring and bid farewell to the cold winter. Bonfires are lit in street corners to ward off evil spirits and create positive energy and each household prepares snacks to share with guests and neighbours.

Some cities in India celebrate Holi in all its glory with loud and elaborate revelry. Predominantly Holi is a North Indian festival, however over time it has spread to include many regions. The most serious and exuberant celebrations take place in New Delhi, Mumbai, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where colour fills the air and celebrations know no bounds. In Delhi, you will find yourself a target of coloured water balloons as soon as you step foot on a street. In places like Varanasi, Mathura (in Uttar Pradesh) and Pushkar (Rajasthan), celebrations are more traditional with temple rituals and community dance performances.

Shop in Mysore selling Holi [Image: Wikipedia

Each year the local markets fill their store displays with a variety of shaded powder lined up in baskets and earthen pots filled with mountains of colourful hues to attract customers. A few days before the festival, families stock up with their arsenal of colour and prepare festive appetisers and refreshments. Children spend their day planning pranks on their friends and elders gather to enjoy a good game of cards, while young men and women dress in elaborate traditional attire and visit neighbours and friends. The true charm of Holi is that age is no barrier when it comes to sharing and enjoying this special time.
All in all the air is abuzz with fun and excitement. Each Holi colour signifies a special emotion that transcends the brightly coloured faces of people to a sentiment of community, equality and oneness.
  • Red: Purity
  • Orange: Endurance
  • Purple: Magic
  • Blue: Calmness
  • Green: Vitality
  • Yellow: Happiness
  • Pink: Love

Whenever you plan any trip in India be sure to check a cultural calendar and incorporate an experience like Holi. It’s a great way to meet people, learn about the true culture and have great fun while you’re at it!

Have you experienced India’s Holi celebrations? Tell us about it.