by Chloe Hay
Undeniably the most colourful street party you will ever attend, India has been celebrating Holi for over 2 000 years and the festivities show no sign of dying out yet!
This magical festival is steeped in history, with its origins lying in myth and legend; it celebrates the beginning of spring, the triumph of good over evil, the power of truth, and extreme devotion. But you don’t need to be Indian or Hindu to partake in Holi’s vibrant activities; what makes this festival so special is that everyone is welcome to join in. In fact, it would be impossible for anyone not to join in as children and adults alike will cover you in colour the second you step outside of your hotel room. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know you: this is a festival of brotherhood.
In the days leading up to Holi, the market stalls are full of pots of colour in bright hues of red, purple, yellow, blue and green. The colours are considered to be good for your health as we associate bright colours with summertime and happiness, and biologists also believe that as the liquid dye absorbs into our pores it strengthens our body’s ions making us healthier and more beautiful.
Locals also gather wood in the weeks leading up to the festival in order to build a huge bonfire in the centre of every village. On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan is celebrated. A puppet figure of the legend of Holika (who died whilst attempting to kill her nephew) is placed on the top of the bonfire, which is then lit to symbolise the victory of good over evil. Often you will see locals gathering embers from the bonfire to take home to recreate their own smaller versions.
This day is followed by the infamous day of Holi. The day that is all about letting go of any inhibitions and just having fun – it’s a chance to be as mad and as crazy as you like. Young and old alike run riot through India’s streets covering each other in fantastic colour whilst rejoicing in song and dance.
No other festival in the world has fewer rules than this one (even the president and prime ministers are said to hold Holi celebrations at their residences). So, if you’re lucky enough to be in India, don’t miss March 17th and immerge yourself in this cultural festival like none other: take to the streets, sing as loud as you can and let the locals cover you in colour!
Photos credits : User: On The Go Tours (flickr.com)