What better way to welcome spring than by covering your friends with colored powder? That is the essence of the popular Indian festival of Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors. The date of the fun holiday is determined by the Hindu calendar. In 2023, Holi will fall on March 8.
Holi celebrations vary by state. But they all include a friendly color "fight." People of all ages take to the streets early in the morning to douse anyone they meet with colored powder and water. At around noon, the crowds head home for a quick rinse. They then settle down for a delicious feast and a much-needed nap.
There are many folktales associated with the centuries-old celebration. The most popular one credits it to a demon king named Hiranyakashipu. The ruler was unhappy about his son Prahlada's devotion to Lord Vishnu. After many failed attempts to punish him, the king turned to his sister, Holika, for help.
The evil goddess had been granted a shawl that protected her from fire. She asked Prahlada to join her on a burning pyre. But when the young boy stepped into the fire, Holika's shawl flew from her shoulders and covered him. The unprotected goddess perished in the flames. Lord Vishnu appeared shortly after and killed the king. The locals celebrated the victory of good over evil with colorful powder, and a fun tradition was born. Many Indians light a bonfire the night before Holi to cleanse the air of bad spirits.
In the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Holi commemorates the love between the Hindu deity Lord Krishna and Radha. In Nandgaon, Krishna's birthplace, Holi is celebrated for almost an entire month. The highlight of the event is Lathmar, or "stick," Holi. It takes place about a week before the main event. Legend has it that Lord Krishna and his friends went to the neighboring village of Barsana to tease Radha and her friends. But the women chased them away with sticks.
The Nandgaon men reenact the event with a mock battle in Barsana. The women "attack" them with bamboo sticks. The men protect themselves with shields and fight back with the only weapon available — colored powder! Those unlucky enough to get caught have to dress in women's clothing and dance for their captors. The fun continues the following week when the women of Barsana head to Nandgaon to celebrate Holi.
Regardless of the folklore believed, Holi is a festival of love and joy. On this day, people of all ages and cultures set aside past differences and come together to have fun.
Resources: Wikipedia.org, Indiatvnews.com, CNN.com, BBC.com