Holi festival mini-guide

What is the Holi festival?

Holi festival is a religious festival with a long history which recently became very well known thanks to the spectacular color throwing rituals. A very loud and colourful party, loved by Indians and which deserves to be experienced by every true traveller!

holi festival india

The origins

The origins of the Holi festival as we know it today are not 100% certain and get lost in the centuries and between many more or less similar legends.

The most famous one is this: the most powerful of the Hiranyakashipu demons didn’t accept that his son Prahlada had faith in god Vishnu. After many attempts to kill him he setup a plan to set him alight. The plan failed and only Prahlada’s aunt, Holika, died. The Holika Dahan (Holika fire) comes from this.

Fire and bonfires have come to us as an icon of Holi but with the addition of brillant colors used as a tribute to the start of spring. 

indian woman holi festival colours

When

Holi takes place a different day each year. In most of India Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, after the full moon of March. The day before Holi, bonfires are set alight to burn the evil spirits, this day takes the name of  Holika Dahan.

indian elephant holi festival colours

Where

Holi festival is spread all over India. In Jaipur there is one of the most intense and joyful performances but there are many more interesting editions.

Hola Mohalla: takes place in Anandpur Sahib and is a military parade in which Sikhs give proof of their ability in martial arts and with swords.  The atmosphere is very traditional because of the costumes and of the general ambiance of the festival. Some color-launching parties are still on the schedule of the event but they are marginal to the main parade.

Lathmar Holi: this Holi celebration takes place in the villages near Mathura, usually a week before of the “traditional” Holi. The main “feature” of this celebration, inspired by a local legend, is that women, only on this day, are allowed to beat the males of the village with sticks, just as the local godness Radha did with Krishna in the legend.

Holi Moo: the most “commercial” incarnation of Holi takes place in Delhi, the musical festival and the colour launching-party are mixed together for a happy and joyful atmosphere.

The “Royal” Holi: in Udaipur you’ll be able to live the Holi Festival with the Royal family of Udaipur, the Mewar. A great parade in traditional clothes, bonfires, dancing shows and other artistic performances are among the activities that make this the most elegant Holi celebration in India.

holi celebration india

It’s Holi!

Holi is a very important festivity in the northern part of India. It’s not just an opportunity for joy and play, but also one the few times where the barriers of the classic Indian society fall. Differences of sex, age and caste disappear or are very much reduced in this particular day. It’s a not party for everybody, the crowds and the streets are really messy, and with the launch of colors the atmosphere becomes outworldly but extremely different from what western people are accustomed to.

Some advice:

  • Cover your hair
  • Be aware that after the “color fight” some stains could remain on your clothes… so choose wisely which outfit you are using, it might become the best souvenir of your custom made Holi festival tour you ever had!
  • Protect eyes and lips
  • Get ready for a truly unique experience!

During the Holi excess is very common but… as the locals say: : Bura na mano, Holi hai (Don’t be offended, it’s Holi!) 

India powder festival holi