Holi is one of those festivals that invokes a range of emotions from excitement and anticipation to just a little bit of fear. It is held each spring and is known as the festival of colours; with its trademark being the vivid coloured powder that is sprayed across the cities and towns of India. Holi celebrates the commencement of spring and good harvests. Saying farewell to winter, spring is seen as a time of renewal around the world, and this is no different. Celebrated at the last full moon of the lunar month Phalguna, this year, Holi falls on March 1st!
This Hindu festival is more than just a harvest festival, with several references in mythology. In one tale, in an attempt to punish his son Prahlad for worshipping Lord Vishnu, the demon-king Hiranyakashipu asked his sister Holika to hold him in a blazing fire. Holika had a boon that meant she could never be burnt, however she was burnt to death in this act and Prahlad was freed unharmed. Holi is believed by many to commemorate the legend of Holika and the salvation of Prahlad.
The celebration of Holi is not just a religious event; it is also a joyous and fun one. Children run through towns squealing, throwing brightly coloured powders on each other, and bonfires are lit to remember the sacrifice of Holika, as people celebrate this Hindu festival.
Every part of incredible India celebrates the festival of Holi in its own unique way and each more intriguing than the other. In Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is held high, where young boys try to reach it as girls throw coloured water and powder at them. The boy who manages to reach and break the pot is given the much revered title of ‘Holi King’.
In other parts of India the festivities brighten not only the streets but the air. For example in Kumaon, Uttarakhand, the festival is celebrated with music, adding to the happy atmosphere. Different songs and rhythms are played at different times of the day, creating atmospheric changes over the course of the event.
Regardless of where you are in India, Holi is a happy festival where everyone gets involved, with no one barred from being doused in brilliant colours.
However there is a serious side to Holi, where environmental concerns have now led to a push towards using natural colours rather than synthetic dyes. Natural products such as turmeric provide the vivid orange colouring, the scent of sandal wood perfumes the air and extracts from flowers and leaves fill the air with hues of red, pink and green. These natural dyes are soft both on the environment and on the skin.