Indian Holi Festival is a once-a-year event renowned for fun and ubiquitous color powder. It is one of the best occasions to experience India at its happiest. But don’t rush to throw yourself into this hilarious festival of colors which is also famous for its craziness, some homework beforehand will prove to be helpful.
When is Holi Festival celebrated in India?
In 2018, the Holi Festival will be on March 1when it is celebrated in a minor way; the main day for playing colors will be on March 2. However the specific date of Holi Festival can vary from year to year, as it’s observed on the full moon day of Phagun (12th) month in Hindu calendar, which usually falls at the end of February or early March in the Gregorian calendar. In some places, Holi is celebrated prior to the official Holi Day. Known as the Festival of Colors, Holi is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring.
How long is Holi?
Holi normally lasts for only a night and a day, and usually begins on the evening of a full moon day. But the lasting days may vary in different regions.
How old is Holi Festival?
Holi festival has a very long history, which is mentioned in the Puranas (a vast genre of Indian literature about a wide range of topics), Dasakumara Charita (a prose romance in Sanskrit), and by Kālidāsa (a Classical Sanskrit writer and poet) during the 4th century, and also mentioned in the Ratnavali (a Sanskrit drama) during the 7th century.
Who celebrate Holi?
Though Holi is a Hindu religious festival, it has become popular among non-Hindus in many places in South Asia and even outside Asia, and has spread to many palaces in North America and Europe in the past few years as a celebration of love, joy and colors. It is hard to tell how many people celebrate Holi festival.
What we do in Holi?
In the night before Holi, people gather together, perform religious rituals usually in front of a bonfire, and then pray for the destruction of their internal evil. The next morning, people start the real carnival, by smearing each other with colored powders and drenching each other in open streets, parks, and grounds outside temples and buildings. And sometimes water guns and water-filled balloons are used for fun. There are groups of people sing and dance from place to place carrying drums and other instruments. People will also visit their families and friends to color each other, and then share Holi delicacies.
Where the Holi is celebrated?
Holi is an important festival observed across the whole India, a variety of activities are held during it. Generally speaking, the festive air of Holi in North India, especially in the Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit (Delhi, Jaipur, Agra) is more vivid and jubilant than that in southern part of India, which is quite solemn and more focused on religion and temple rituals. The celebration is seen in every nook and cranny of these cities, so there will be no worries missing out the event.
The Holi festival is widely celebrated across India with different customs and celebrations in each region. Then where is the best place for Holi India? Different strokes for different folks. It depends on what you want to experience.
Holi Festival in Delhi
On the morning of Holi Festival, Delhi ushers in a grand carnival, a large number of people, young and old, men and women, go out to the streets, smear colored powders and water to each other, sing and dance, chant and enjoy Holi delicacies, and say “Holi hai (It is Holi)!”. The best place to celebrate Holi in Delhi is the residential neighborhoods in South Delhi, where you can join the residents in a wonderful traditional celebration.
The Holi Cow Festival, also known as Holi Moo Festival, is rather popular for modern-day Holi celebrations. Held in New Delhi, it is a carnival with non-toxic colors, street food, thandai (a yogurt drink with spices), dance and music (from folk to rock music) to get everyone in the mood.The venue, dates and cost for the festival is not yet decided for 2018 and will be announced by January 2018.
There are also many Holi parties with live performances, music, dance, colors and more held in many places in Delhi to celebrate the spirit of Holi.
Tip: Avoid backpacker area in Delhi, e.g.,Paharganj, as celebrations there can get rather unruly.
Holi Festival in Jaipur
Rajasthan Tourism organizes a special event for visitors on the lawns of Khasa Kothi Hotel on the morning of Holi. The event features local Rajasthani folk music and the colored powders. You can take part in the event even you are not a guest of the hotel. Or there is an option of participating in Holi celebration at a local residence with festive lunch.
Holi Festival in Agra
In Agra, Holi is celebrated in more or less the same way as in its neighboring places like Mathura, Vrindavan and Barsana. InBarsana, thousands of people celebrate Lath Mar Holi in the Radha Rani temple, when women beat up men with sticks and men protect themselves with shields, while those on the sidelines feel extremely excited, sing Holi songs and shout “Sri Krishna”. InVrindavanandMathura(the birthplace of Lord Krishna), the festival is celebrated with special puja and traditional celebrations to worship Lord Krishna, who is also called Makhan Chor (literally means Butter Thief). The celebrations includeMatki Phod(breaking of the pot). A pottery pot filled with buttermilk or other dairies is hung high with a rope in the street. Then group of boys and men form a pyramid by balancing on each other’s backs or shoulders to reach and break the pot with the top person’s head, while girls and women surround the human pyramid, sing songs and sprinkle colored water to them to distract them and make their job harder.
Holi Festival in Udaipur
Udaipur is also a great place to embrace the true spirit of Holi and experience Holi in the most luxurious settings. On the eve of Holi, there will be a grand and elaborate procession of royal band, decorated horses, etc. starting from royal residence of Mewar royal family to Manek Chowk at the iconic City Palace. Later, the sacred fire will be lit and a Holika statue will be burnt. It features folk dances, singings, drums, cocktails and an elaborate dinner and fireworks, and attended by dignitaries, guests and foreign tourists. Join in the royal celebrations of the festival with Udaipur’s Mewar royal family, and you will have a unique and memorable experience.
Holi Festival in Pushkar
Holi Festival in Pushkar, a small holy town in Rajasthan, begins in the eve of Holi with a big bonfire. Local men gather around an unlit bonfire on a square, throw garlands and wooden branches onto the fire, and then light the bonfire. Soon the flames grow higher than two stories. After the flames die out, everyone brings pieces of burning embers to their home, which symbolizes bringing good luck to home. The color-throwing festivities start early in the morning of Holi. A dance party is held in the central square of Pushkar with everyone covered with beautiful colors.
Holi Festival in Varanasi
In Varanasi, the holy city of India, people celebrate Holi with much fervor and enthusiasm. In Holika Dahan, the day before Holi, people light a bonfire, throw dung cakes and wood into the fire and offer grain to the fire god. They also throw the paste called ubtan into fire after using it to rub their bodies. The practice is believed can keep them disease-free for the rest of the year. They also make a tilak on their forehead with the Holika ash. In the day of Holi, people play with colors till noon. Some people play with mud instead. In the evening, they gather near the ghats to greet and chat with each other, sing and dance.
Holi Festival in Goa
In Goa, Holi Festival is a part of a more extensive and almost a-month-long spring festival named Śigmo. It includes Holika Puja, and offering gulal (colored powder) to the deity.
Holi Festival in Mumbai
Holi is also a major festival and a break from hectic life in Mumbai. People celebrate it by hanging high a pot of buttermilk, and then men climb on top of one another to break the pot. The one who breaks the pot is named Holi King of the year. InISKCON temple, people celebrate Holi in a traditional way. In Bollywood, many actors and actresses celebrate it with colors.There are also a lot of Holi parties held mostly by hotels and resorts across the city, but most of them require admission fees.
Note: in other cities (including those mentioned above) except Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, Holi is celebrated almost exclusively by locals, and no special program is arranged for foreign tourists to play Holi. While in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, there are special arrangements for foreign tourists, such as Holi at Eleholifest (Eleday) in Jaipur, Holi Celebration at Kalakriti Cultural and Convention Centre in Agra, etc. We can arrange special programs for you to play Holi during your India tour if you like.