Holi is one of the most popular and perhaps the second biggest Hindu festival. Also known as the Festival of Colours or the Festival of Love, Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day (Purnima) of the lunar month Phalgun, hence on ‘Phalgun Purnima’. This usually falls in March, and sometimes at the end of February. Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring – a time for Hindus to celebrate spring’s abundant colours, good agricultural harvest and to start afresh with stained relationships.
In 2019 Holi will be celebrated on March 21st.
Festival of Colours – The Celebration
In modern times Holi is celebrated by splashing colours on each other in the morning Holi party. This is followed by everyone enjoying the special festive delicacies, then showering, and then resting through the afternoon. In the evening people dress up in traditional new clothes and meet family & friends.
View our Holi celebration photo albums below:
Watch ITH’s Holi Celebration videos from ’13, ’14 & ’15:
History of Holi, in a Nutshell…
Holi signifies the victory of good over evil. The story goes…
After Varah (an avatar of Vishnu) killed his brother Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu, an evil king, wanted to kill Vishnu. He thus penanced to gain magical powers from Lord Brahma that made him virtually indestructible. Blinded by his special powers, he thought that he was God himself and that everyone should worship him. His son Prahlad, however, was a devotee to Vishnu since the time he was in his mother’s womb. Prahlad’s devotion to Vishnu infuriated Hiranyakashipu. Following several failed attempts to punish and kill Prahlad, who was and remained Vishnu’s devotee, Hiranyakashipu took the help of his sister Holika who had been blessed in that she could not be hurt by fire.
Hiranyakashipu and Holika tricked Prahlad into sitting on a pyre with her. As Hiranyakashipu put Prahlad on Holika’s lap, Prahlad prays to Vishnu to keep him safe. The fire roars and burns Holika to death whereas Prahlad remains unharmed.
In present times, on the eve of Holi, Hindus burn bonfires (symbolic of Holika). This signifies the end of evil, and beginning of happy times. In other words – victory of good over evil. By now you must have guessed it right – Holi comes from Holika!
Radha & Krishna
Another legend tells about Radha’s eternal love for Krishna, a reincarnation of Vishnu.
A she demon, Putana, poisoned Krishna with her breast milk. This turned Krishna into his symbolic blue colour. Wretched with this, in his youth, Krishna worried whether the fair coloured Gopis (girls) would like him. To this his mother tells him to colour Radha’s face with whatever colour he liked. So Krishna does, and this playful colouring of the face of Radha since has been celebrated as the colourful Holi that we know today – the Festival of Colours. The love of Radha & Krishna is why it is called the Festival of Love.
Honestly, it is hard to grasp and comprehend the beautiful essence of this story unless you know the whole story of Krishna’s mischievous & playful childhood, so I recommend that you take a good look at this article from momjunction.com: 10 Best Lord Krishna Childhood Stories For Your Kids.
This post is updated annually.