Rites of passage
Gurus, saints, philosophers
U. G. Krishnamurti
Ramachandra Dattatrya Ranade
Hinduism by country
Hinduism and Jainism / and Buddhism / and Sikhism / and
Judaism / and Christianity / and Islam
Holi ( /ˈhoʊliː/; Sanskrit: होली Holī), also known as the
"festival of colours", is an Indian and Nepali spring festival
celebrated all across the
Indian subcontinent as well as in countries
Indian subcontinent diaspora populations such as
Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa,
Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mauritius,
and Fiji. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the
arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet
others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken
relationships. It is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a
good harvest. It lasts for a night and a day, starting on the
evening of the
Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Vikram Samvat
Hindu Calendar  month of Phalguna, which falls somewhere between
the end of February and the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar.
The first evening is known as
Holika Dahan or Chhoti
Holi and the
following day as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or
Holi is an ancient
Hindu religious festival which has become popular
Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of
other communities outside Asia. In recent years the festival has
spread to parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of
love, frolic, and colours.
Holi celebrations start on the night before
Holi with a
where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the
bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way
Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the
fire. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali
Holi – a
free-for-all festival of colours, where people smear each other
with colours and drench each other.
Water guns and water-filled
balloons are also used to play and colour each other. Anyone and
everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman,
children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the
open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry
drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and
dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw coloured powders
on each other, laugh and gossip, then share
Holi delicacies, food and
drinks. Some customary drinks include bhang (made from
cannabis), which is intoxicating. In the evening, after
sobering up, people dress up and visit friends and family.
1.4 Cultural significance
1.5 Other Indian religions
3 History and rituals
4 Regional names, rituals and celebrations
4.1.2 Uttar Pradesh
4.1.6 West Bengal
4.1.15 Jammu & Kashmir
4.1.16 Punjab & Himachal Pradesh
4.3 Indian diaspora
5 Traditional sources of colours
6.1 Synthetic colours
6.2 Environmental impact
7 Influence on other cultures
7.1 Holi-inspired events
8 See also
11 External links
See also: Holika
Holika bonfire in front of Jagdish Temple in Udaipur, Rajasthan, 2010
There is a symbolic legend to explain why
Holi is celebrated as a
festival of colours in the honour of
Vishnu and his follower
Prahlada. King Hiranyakashipu, according to a legend found in chapter
7 of Bhagavata Purana, was the king of demonic Asuras, and had
earned a boon that gave him five special powers: he could be killed by
neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors,
neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (projectile weapons) nor
by any shastra (handheld weapons), and neither on land nor in water or
Hiranyakashipu grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded
that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and
remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He
Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the
boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika,
Prahlada's evil aunt, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her.
Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire,
Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika
and encased Prahlada, who survived while
Holika burned. Vishnu,
the god who appears as an avatar to restore
took the form of
Narasimha - half human and half lion, at dusk (when
it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep
(which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which
was neither land, water nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the
king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a
Holika bonfire and
Holi signifies the celebration of the symbolic
victory of good over evil, of
Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the
fire that burned Holika.
Braj region of India, where the
Krishna grew up,
the festival is celebrated until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the
divine love of
Radha for Krishna. The festivities officially usher in
Holi celebrated as a festival of love. There is a
symbolic myth behind commemorating
Krishna as well. As a baby, Krishna
developed his characteristic dark skin colour because the she-demon
Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. In his youth, Krishna
despaired whether the fair-skinned
Radha and other girls would like
him because of his skin colour. His mother, tired of the desperation,
asks him to approach
Radha and colour her face in any colour he
wanted. This he does, and
Krishna became a couple. Ever
since, the playful colouring of Radha's face has been commemorated as
Holi. Beyond India, these legends to explain the significance
Holi (Phagwah) are common in some Caribbean and South American
communities of Indian origin such as
Guyana and Trinidad and
Tobago. It is also celebrated with great fervour in
Hindu traditions such as
Shaivism and Shaktism, the
legendary significance of
Holi is linked to
Shiva in yoga and deep
Parvati wanting to bring back
Shiva into the
world, seeks help from the
Hindu god of love called
Kama on Vasant
Panchami. The love god shoots arrows at Shiva, the yogi opens his
third eye and burns
Kama to ashes. This upsets both Kama's wife Rati
(Kamadevi) and his own wife Parvati. Rati performs her own meditative
asceticism for forty days, upon which
Shiva understands, forgives out
of compassion and restores the god of love. This return of the god of
love, is celebrated on the 40th day after
Vasant Panchami festival as
Kama legend and its significance to
Holi has many
variant forms, particularly in South India.
Holi festival has a cultural significance among various Hindu
traditions of the Indian subcontinent. It is the festive day to end
and rid oneself of past errors, to end conflicts by meeting others, a
day to forget and forgive. People pay or forgive debts, as well as
deal anew with those in their lives.
Holi also marks the start of
spring, for many the start of the new year, an occasion for people to
enjoy the changing seasons and make new friends.
Other Indian religions
The festival has traditionally been also observed by non-Hindus, such
as by Jains and
Sikhs have traditionally celebrated the festival, at least through the
19th century, with its historic texts referring to it as Hola.
Guru Gobind Singh
Guru Gobind Singh – the last human guru of the
Sikhs – modified
Holi with a three-day
Hola Mohalla extension festival of martial arts.
The extension started the day after the
Holi festival in Anandpur
Sahib, where Sikh soldiers would train in mock battles, compete in
horsemanship, athletics, archery and military exercises.
Holi was observed by Maharaja
Ranjit Singh and his Sikh Empire that
extended across what are now northern parts of
India and Pakistan.
According to a report by Tribune India, Sikh court records state that
300 mounds of colours were used in 1837 by
Ranjit Singh and his
officials in Lahore.
Ranjit Singh would celebrate
Holi with others in
the Bilawal gardens, where decorative tents were set up. In 1837, Sir
Henry Fane who was the commander-in-chief of the British Indian army
Holi celebrations organised by Ranjit Singh. A mural in the
Lahore Fort was sponsored by
Ranjit Singh and it showed the
Holi with gopis. After the death of Ranjit Singh, his
Sikh sons and others continued to play
Holi every year with colours
and lavish festivities. The colonial British officials joined these
Radha and the Gopis celebrating Holi, with accompaniment of music
Holi is an important spring festival for Hindus, a national holiday in
Nepal with regional holidays in other countries. To many
Hindus and some non-Hindus, it is a playful cultural event and an
excuse to throw coloured water at friends or strangers in jest. It is
also observed broadly in the Indian subcontinent.
Holi is celebrated
at the end of winter, on the last full moon day of the Hindu
luni-solar calendar month marking the spring, making the date vary
with the lunar cycle.[note 1] The date falls typically in March, but
sometimes late February of the Gregorian calendar.
Holi snacks and drinks, post play with colours. Left: salty snacks,
Gujia (a stuffed wrap), Right:
Thandai (almonds-based chilled
drink) to which sometimes intoxicating "bhang" is added.
The festival has many purposes; most prominently, it celebrates the
beginning of Spring. In 17th century literature, it was identified as
a festival that celebrated agriculture, commemorated good spring
harvests and the fertile land.
Hindus believe it is a time of
enjoying spring's abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. To
Holi festivities mark the beginning of the new year as
well as an occasion to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end
conflicts and rid themselves of accumulated emotional impurities from
It also has a religious purpose, symbolically signified by the legend
of Holika. The night before Holi, bonfires are lit in a ceremony known
Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Little Holi. People gather near
fires, sing and dance. The next day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in
Sanskrit, or Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated.
In Northern parts of India, Children and youth spray coloured powder
solutions (gulal) at each other, laugh and celebrate, while adults
smear dry coloured powder (abir) on each other's faces.
Visitors to homes are first teased with colours, then served with Holi
delicacies (such as puranpoli, dahi-bada and gujia), desserts and
drinks. After playing with colours, and cleaning up,
people bathe, put on clean clothes, and visit friends and family.
Kama Dahanam is celebrated in some parts of India.
The festival of colours in these parts is called Rangapanchami, and
occurs on the fifth day after Poornima (full moon).
History and rituals
Holi festival is an ancient
Hindu festival with its cultural
rituals. It is mentioned in the Puranas, Dasakumara Charita, and by
Kālidāsa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta
II. The celebration of
Holi is also mentioned in the 7th-century
Sanskrit drama Ratnavali. The festival of
Holi caught the
fascination of European traders and British colonial staff by the 17th
century. Various old editions of Oxford English Dictionary mention it,
but with varying, phonetically derived spellings: Houly (1687), Hooly
(1698), Huli (1789), Hohlee (1809), Hoolee (1825), and
editions published after 1910.
There are several cultural rituals associated with Holi:
Holika pyre for bonfire
Shops start selling colours for
Holi in the days and weeks beforehand
Days before the festival people start gathering wood and combustible
materials for the bonfire in parks, community centers, near temples
and other open spaces. On top of the pyre is an effigy to signify
Holika who tricked Prahalad into the fire. Inside homes, people stock
up on pigments, food, party drinks and festive seasonal foods such as
gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other regional delicacies.
On the eve of Holi, typically at or after sunset, the pyre is lit,
Holika Dahan. The ritual symbolises the victory of good
over evil. People gather around the fire to sing and dance.
Play with colours
Holi frolic and celebrations begin the morning after the Holika
bonfire. There is no tradition of holding puja (prayer), and the day
is for partying and pure enjoyment. Children and young people form
groups armed with dry colours, coloured solution and water guns
(pichkaris), water balloons filled with coloured water, and other
creative means to colour their targets.
Braj region of North India, women have the option to playfully
hit men who save themselves with shields; for the day, men are
culturally expected to accept whatever women dish out to them. This
ritual is called Lath Mar Holi.
Traditionally, washable natural plant-derived colours such as
turmeric, neem, dhak, and kumkum were used, but water-based commercial
pigments are increasingly used. All colours are used. Everyone in open
areas such as streets and parks is game, but inside homes or at
doorways only dry powder is used to smear each other's face. People
throw colours and get their targets completely coloured up. It is like
a water fight, but with coloured water. People take delight in
spraying coloured water on each other. By late morning, everyone looks
like a canvas of colours. This is why
Holi is given the name "Festival
Groups sing and dance, some playing drums and dholak. After each stop
of fun and play with colours, people offer gujiya, mathri, malpuas and
other traditional delicacies. Cold drinks, including adult drinks
based on local intoxicating herbs, are also part of the Holi
Friends form groups on Holi, play drums and music, sing and dance, as
they move from one stop to another.
Braj region around Mathura, in north India, the festivities may
last more than a week. The rituals go beyond playing with colours, and
include a day where men go around with shields and women have the
right to playfully beat them on their shields with sticks.
In south India, some worship and make offerings to Kaamadeva, the love
god of Indian mythology.
The after party
After a day of play with colours, people clean up, wash and bathe,
sober up and dress up in the evening and greet friends and relatives
by visiting them and exchanging sweets.
Holi is also a festival of
forgiveness and new starts, which ritually aims to generate harmony in
Regional names, rituals and celebrations
Holi (Hindi: होली, Marathi: होळी, Nepali:
होली, Punjabi: ਹੋਲੀ, Kannada: ಹೋಳಿ, Telugu:
హోళి) is also known as Phakuwa or Phagwah (Assamese:
Festival of Colours, or Dola jātra in Odisha,
and as Dol Jatra (Assamese: দ’ল যাত্ৰা) or Basanto
utsav ("spring festival") in
West Bengal and Assam. The customs and
celebrations vary between regions of India.
Basanto Utsav at Jorasanko Thakurbari
Holi is of particular significance in the
Braj region, which includes
locations traditionally associated with the Lord Krishna: Mathura,
Vrindavan, Nandgaon, Uttar Pradesh, and Barsana, which become
touristic during the season of Holi.
India and Nepal,
Holi is observed by the minority
Pakistan as well in countries with large Indian
subcontinent diaspora populations such as Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad
and Tobago, South Africa, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United
States, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, and Fiji. The
Holi rituals and
customs outside South Asia also vary with local adaptations.
"Celebration of Spring by
Krishna and Radha", 18th-century miniature;
in the Guimet Museum, Paris
Holi is a two-day festival. On the evening of the first
day people light the bonfire. People offer raw coconut and corn to the
fire. The second day is the festival of colour or "Dhuleti",
celebrated by sprinkling coloured water and applying colours to each
other. Dwarka, a coastal city of Gujarat, celebrates
Holi at the
Dwarkadheesh temple and with citywide comedy and music
festivities. Falling in the
Hindu month of Phalguna,
the agricultural season of the rabi crop.
Ahmedabad in Gujarat, in western India, a pot of buttermilk is hung
high over the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by
making human pyramids. The girls try to stop them by throwing coloured
water on them to commemorate the pranks of
Krishna and the cowherd
boys to steal butter and "gopis" while trying to stop the girls. The
boy who finally manages to break the pot is crowned the
Afterwards, the men, who are now very colourful, go out in a large
procession to "alert" people of Krishna's possible appearance to steal
butter from their homes.
In some places there is a custom in undivided
Hindu families that the
woman beats her brother-in-law with a sari rolled up into a rope in a
mock rage and tries to drench him with colours, and in turn, the
brother-in-law brings sweets (Indian desserts) to her in the
See also: Lath mar Holi
Colour Drenched Gopis in
Krishna Temple, Mathura
Barsana, a town near
Mathura in the
Braj region of Uttar Pradesh,
Lath mar Holi
Lath mar Holi in the sprawling compound of the
temple. Thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar
Holi when women beat
up men with sticks as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing
Holi songs and shout "Sri Radhey" or "Sri Krishna". The
Holi songs of
Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj, the local language.
Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with
sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the
attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves
called lathis to beat the men, who protect themselves with
Mathura, in the
Braj region, is the birthplace of Lord Krishna. In
Vrindavan this day is celebrated with special puja and the traditional
custom of worshipping Lord Krishna; here the festival lasts for
sixteen days. All over the
Braj region  and neighboring places
like Hathras, Aligarh, and Agra,
Holi is celebrated in more or less
the same way as in Mathura,
Vrindavan and Barsana.
A play of colours then a dance at a
Hindu temple near Mathura, at
A traditional celebration includes Matki Phod, similar to Dahi Handi
Krishna Janmashtami, both in the
memory of god
Krishna who is also called makhan chor (literally,
butter thief). This is a historic tradition of the
Braj region as well
as the western region of India. An earthen pot filled with butter
or other milk products is hung high by a rope. Groups of boys and men
climb on each other's shoulder to form pyramids to reach and break it,
while girls and women sing songs and throw coloured water on the
pyramid to distract them and make their job harder. This ritual
sport continues in
Hindu diaspora communities.
Outside Braj, in the
Holi lasts seven days with colour.
On the last day, a grand fair called Ganga Mela or the
Holi Mela is
celebrated. This Mela (fair) was started by freedom fighters who
fought British rule in the
First Indian War of Independence
First Indian War of Independence in 1857
under the leadership of Nana Saheb. The Mela is held at various ghats
along the banks of the River Ganga in Kanpur, to celebrate the Hindus
and Muslims who together resisted the British forces in the city in
1857. On the eve of Ganga Mela, all government offices, shops, and
courts generally remain closed. The Ganga Mela marks the official end
Festival of Colours" or
Holi in Kanpur.
In Gorakhpur, the northeast district of Uttar Pradesh, the day pig
Holi starts with a special puja. This day, called "
Holi Milan", is
considered to be the most colourful day of the year, promoting
brotherhood among the people. People visit every house and sing Holi
songs and express their gratitude by applying coloured powder (Abeer).
It is also considered the beginning of the year, as it occurs on the
first day of the
Hindu calendar year (Panchang).
A natural dye-based
Holi in Pune, an alternative to synthetic colours
Main article: Kumauni Holi
Uttarakhand includes a musical affair. It takes
different forms such as the Baithki Holi, the Khari
Holi and the
Mahila Holi. In Baithki
Holi and Khari Holi, people sing songs with a
touch of melody, fun and spiritualism. These songs are essentially
based on classical ragas. Baithki
Holi (बैठकी होली),
also known as Nirvan Ki Holi, begins from the premises of temples,
where Holiyars (होल्यार) sing
Holi songs and people
gather to participate, along with playing classical music. The songs
are sung in a particular sequence depending on the time of day; for
instance, at noon the songs are based on Peelu, Bhimpalasi and Sarang
ragas, while evening songs are based on the ragas such as Kalyan,
Shyamkalyan and Yaman. The Khari
Holi (खड़ी होली) is
mostly celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon. The songs of the Khari
Holi are sung by the people, who, sporting traditional white churidar
payajama and kurta, dance in groups to the tune of ethnic musical
instruments such as the dhol and hurka.
Holi celebrations, Pushkar, Rajasthan
In the Kumaon region, the
Holika pyre, known as Cheer (चीर), is
ceremonially built in a ceremony known as Cheer Bandhan (चीर
बंधन) fifteen days before Dulhendi. The Cheer is a bonfire
with a green Paiya tree branch in the middle. The Cheer of every
village and neighborhood is rigorously guarded as rival mohallas try
to playfully steal each other's cheer.
The colours used on
Holi are derived from natural sources. Dulhendi,
known as Charadi (छरड़ी) (from Chharad (छरड़)), is
made from flower extracts, ash and water.
Holi is celebrated with
great gusto much in the same way all across North India.
Holi is known as Phaguwa in the local
Bhojpuri dialect. In this region
as well, the legend of
Holika is prevalent. On the eve of Phalgun
Poornima, people light bonfires. They put dried cow dung cakes, wood
of the Araad or Redi tree and
Holika tree, grains from the fresh
harvest and unwanted wood leaves in the bonfire. At the time of Holika
people assemble near the pyre. The eldest member of the gathering or a
purohit initiates the lighting. He then smears others with colour as a
mark of greeting. Next day the festival is celebrated with colours and
a lot of frolic. Traditionally, people also clean their houses to mark
the festival.
Holi Milan is also observed in Bihar, where family members and well
wishers visit each other's family, apply colours (abeer) on each
other's faces, and on feet, if elderly. Usually this takes place on
the evening of
Holi day after
Holi with wet colours is played in the
morning through afternoon. Due to large-scale internal migration
issues faced by the people, recently this tradition has slowly begun
to transform, and it is common to have
Holi Milan on an entirely
different day either before or after the actual day of Holi.[citation
Children and youths take extreme delight in the festival. Though the
festival is usually celebrated with colours, in some places people
also enjoy celebrating
Holi with water solutions of mud or clay. Folk
songs are sung at high pitch and people dance to the sound of the
dholak (a two-headed hand-drum) and the spirit of Holi. Intoxicating
bhang, made from cannabis, milk and spices, is consumed with a variety
of mouth-watering delicacies, such as pakoras and thandai, to enhance
the mood of the festival.
“Dola Purnima” is a popular festival in the coastal districts of
Jagannath is worshiped as the name of Dolagovinda in this
festival. On this day Odia calendar (Panji) becomes ready and it is
worshiped on Dolabedi infront of Dolagovind . It is the full-moon day
in the month of Falguna. Through the festival the spring is welcomed
and enjoyed with fun and happiness. This festival has been referred as
“Basantotsaba” or the spring-festival in mythology. Some
scriptures testify that the “Madanotsaba “, the festival held in
honour of ‘Madana’ or the Cupid was later transformed as the
“Dolatsaba” or swing-festival of Krishna. Therefore,
propitiated on this occasion as “Madanamohana”. Description of the
festival as Dolatsaba finds mention in a number of ‘Puranas’ and
other Sanskrit texts. The ‘Padma Purana’ says, “One is expiated
of all sins, who gets a vision of
Krishna swaying in the swing.” The
idols carried in veemanas from a number of villages assemble in an
important place where swings are fixed on a platform. They are made to
swing to the accompaniment of devotional music sung in chorus. In
olden days the beginning of the new year vvas calculated from the
spring-season. After the swinging festival of the deities, the Ganaka
or Jyothisha (astronomer-cum-fortune teller) reads out the new Odia
almanac and narrates the important events that are to take place
during the year. For this reason, some are of opinion that this
festival is purely to celebrate the new year.
Dol Khela in Kolkata at Thakurbari
In West Bengal,
Holi is known by the name of "Dol Jatra", "Dol
Purnima" or the "Swing Festival". The festival is celebrated in a
dignified manner by placing the icons of
Radha on a
picturesquely decorated palanquin which is then taken round the main
streets of the city or the village. On the Dol
Purnima day in the
early morning, students dress up in saffron-coloured or pure white
clothes and wear garlands of fragrant flowers. They sing and dance to
the accompaniment of musical instruments, such as the ektara, dubri,
and veena. The devotees take turns to swing them while women dance
around the swing and sing devotional songs. During these activities,
the men keep spraying coloured water and coloured powder, abir, at
Basanta Utsab at
Jorasanko Thakur Bari
Jorasanko Thakur Bari in 2015
The head of the family observes a fast and prays to Lord
Agnidev. After all the traditional rituals are over,
he smears Krishna's icon with gulal and offers "bhog" to both Krishna
and Agnidev. In Shantiniketan,
Holi has a special musical flavour.
Holi are offered traditional dishes that include malpoa,
kheer sandesh, basanti sandesh (saffron), saffron milk, payash, and
An 1822 drawing showing elevation of a black stone arch in Puri,
Odisha. It carried Vaishnavite gods and goddess, the ritual noted to
be a part of the
The people of
Odisha celebrate "Dola" on the day of
Holi where the
Jagannath replace the icons of
Krishna and Radha. Dola
Melana, processions of the deities are celebrated in villages and
bhoga is offered to the deities. "Dola yatra" was prevalent even
before 1560 much before
Holi was started where the idols of
Subhadra used to be taken to the
"Dolamandapa" (podium in
Jagannath temple). People used to offer
natural colours known as "abira" to the deities and apply on each
Holi, also called Phakuwa (ফাকুৱা) in Assamese, is
celebrated all over Assam. Locally called Dol Jatra, associated with
Satras of Barpeta,
Holi is celebrated over two days. On the first day,
the burning of clay huts are seen in
Barpeta and lower
signifies the legends of Holika. On the second day of it,
celebrated with colour powders. The
Holi songs in chorus devoted to
Krishna are also sung in the regions of Barpeta.
Main article: Shigmo
Holi is a part of the Goan or Konkani spring festival known as Śigmo
or शिगमो in Koṅkaṇī or Śiśirotsava, which lasts for
about a month. The colour festival or
Holi is a part of longer, more
extensive spring festival celebrations.
Holi festivities (but not
Śigmo festivities) include:
Holika Puja and Dahan, Dhulvad or Dhuli
vandan, Haldune or offering yellow and saffron colour or
Gulal to the
Purnima is also celebrated as Shimga, festivities
that last five to seven days. A week before the festival, youngsters
go around the community, collecting firewood and money. On the day of
Shimga, the firewood is heaped into a huge pile in each neighborhood.
In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household brings a meal and
dessert, in the honour of the fire god. Puran Poli is the main
delicacy and children shout "
Holi puranachi poli". Shimga
celebrates the elimination of all evil. The colour celebrations here
take place on the day of Rang Panchami, five days after Shimga. During
this festival, people are supposed to forget and forgive any rivalries
and start new healthy relations with all.
Pune city in Maharashtra
Holi for 6 days. Here, this holiday merges with
the festival of Yaosang. Traditionally, the festival commences with
the burning of a thatched hut of hay and twigs. Young children go from
house to house to collect money, locally known as nakadeng (or
nakatheng), as gifts on the first two days. The youths at night
perform a group folk dance called
Thabal chongba on the full moon
night of Lamta (Phalgun), traditionally accompanied by folk songs and
rhythmic beats of the indigenous drum, but nowadays by modern bands
and fluorescent lamps. In
Krishna temples, devotees sing devotional
songs, perform dances and celebrate with aber (gulal) wearing
traditional white and yellow turbans. On the last day of the festival,
large processions are taken out to the main
Krishna temple near Imphal
where several cultural activities are held. In recent decades,
Yaosang, a type of Indian sport, has become common in many places of
the valley, where people of all ages come out to participate in a
number of sports that are somewhat altered for the holiday.
Holi is locally called Ukkuli in Konkani. It is celebrated around the
Konkani temple called Gosripuram temple.
Traditionally, in rural
Karnataka children collect money and wood in
the weeks prior to Holi, and on "Kamadahana" night all the wood is put
together and lit. The festival is celebrated for two days. People in
northern parts of
Karnataka prepare special food on this day.
Holi Celebration in Andhra Pradesh
In Sirsi, Karnataka,
Holi is celebrated with a unique folk dance
called "Bedara Vesha", which is performed during the nights beginning
five days before the actual festival day. The festival is celebrated
every alternate year in the town, which attracts a large number of
tourists from different parts of the India.
As in other parts of India, in rural Telangana, children celebrate
kamuda and collect money, rice, corn and wood for weeks prior to Holi,
and on Kamudha night all the wood is put together and set on fire.
Holi as it relates to the legend of
Kama Deva. Holi
is known by three names: Kamavilas, Kaman Pandigai and
Jammu & Kashmir
In Jammu & Kashmir,
Holi celebrations are much in line with the
general definition of
Holi celebrations: a high-spirited festival to
mark the beginning of the harvesting of the summer crop, with the
throwing of coloured water and powder and singing and
Punjab & Himachal Pradesh
Holi is preceded by
Holika Dahan the night before. On the
day of Holi, people engage in throwing colours on each other.
Holi marks the end of winter. The Punjabi saying 'Phaggan
phal laggan' (Phagun is the month for fructifying) exemplifies the
seasonal aspect of Holi. Trees and plants start blossoming from the
day of Basant and start bearing fruit by Holi.
Holi in Punjab, walls and courtyards of rural houses are
enhanced with drawings and paintings similar to rangoli in South
India, mandana in Rajasthan, and rural arts in other parts of India.
This art is known as chowk-poorana or chowkpurana in Punjab and is
given shape by the peasant women of the state. In courtyards, this art
is drawn on cloth. The art includes drawing tree motifs, flowers,
ferns, creepers, plants, peacocks, palanquins, geometric patterns
along with vertical, horizontal and oblique lines. These arts add to
the festive atmosphere.
Folk theatrical performances known as swang or nautanki take place
during Holi, with the latter originating in the Punjab.
Holika Dahan, Kathamandu, Nepal
Holi In Kathmandu, Nepal
Holi, along with many other
Hindu festivals, is celebrated in
a national festival. It is an important major Nepal-wide festival
Dashain and Tihar (Dipawali). It is celebrated in the
Nepali month of Phagun (same date as Indian Holi), and signifies the
legends of the
Hindu god Krishna.
Buddhists and others
Saraswati shrine in Vajrayogini temples and celebrate the
festival with their
Hindu friends. Traditional concerts are held
in most cities in Nepal, including Kathmandu, Narayangarh, Pokhara,
Hetauda, and Dharan, and are broadcast on television with various
People walk through their neighbourhoods to celebrate
exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A
popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another,
sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon). Many people mix
bhang in their drinks and food, as is also done during Shivaratri. It
is believed that the combination of different colours at this festival
takes all sorrow away and makes life itself more colourful.
Over the years,
Holi has become an important festival in many regions
wherever Indian diaspora were either taken as indentured labourers
during colonial era, or where they emigrated on their own, and are now
present in large numbers such as in Africa, North America, Europe,
Latin America, and parts of Asia such as Fiji.
A celebration of
Festival in the United States
Holi is a national holiday in Suriname. It is called Phagwa festival,
and is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring and
Holi Phagwa is a festival of colour. It is customary to
wear old white clothes on this day, be prepared to get them dirty and
join in the colour throwing excitement and party.
Trinidad and Tobago
Phagwa is normally celebrated in
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago on the Sunday
closest to the actual date of Phagwah. It is celebrated with a lot of
colour and splendour, along with the singing on traditional Phagwah
Drummers of Indo-Caribbean community celebrating Phagwah (Holi) in New
York City, 2013
Phagwah is a national holiday in Guyana, and peoples of all races and
religions participate in the celebrations. The main celebration in
Georgetown is held at the Mandir in Prashad Nagar.
Holi as festival of colours, folksongs and
dances. The folksongs sung in
Holi season are called phaag
gaaian. Phagan, also written as Phalgan, is the last month of the
Holi is celebrated at the end of Phagan.
the advent of spring and ripening of crops in Northern India. Not only
it is a season of romance and excitement, folk songs and dances, it is
also an occasion of playing with powder, perfumes and colours. Many of
Holi songs in
Fiji are around the theme of love-relationship
Radha and Krishna.
Mauritius comes close on the heels of Shivaratri. It
celebrates the beginning of spring, commemorating good harvests and
the fertile land.
Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s
abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. It is considered one
of the most exhilarating religious holidays in existence. During this
event, participants hold a bonfire, throw coloured powder at each
other, and celebrate wildly.
Holi is celebrated by Pakistani Hindus, in various cities in the
provinces of Punjab and Sindh, such as Karachi, Hazara,
Rawalpindi, Sindh, Hyderabad,
Multan and Lahore. Locals in Multan
Holi and Prahlada with the Prahlada-
Holi was not a public holiday in
Pakistan from 1947 to 2016. Holi
Diwali for Hindus, and Easter for Christians, was adopted
as public holiday resolution by Pakistan's parliament in 2016, giving
the local governments and public institutions the right to declare
Holi as a holiday and grant leave for its minority communities, for
the first time. This decision has been controversial, with some
Pakistanis welcoming the decision, while others criticising it, with
the concern that declaring
Holi a public holiday advertises a Hindu
festival to Pakistani children.
Traditional sources of colours
Flowers of Dhak or
Palash are used to make traditional colours
The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to
cause viral fever and cold. The playful throwing of natural coloured
powders, called gulal has a medicinal significance: the colours are
traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal
herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors.
Many colours are obtained by mixing primary colours. Artisans produce
and sell many of the colours from natural sources in dry powder form,
in weeks and months preceding Holi. Some of the traditional natural
plant based sources of colours are:
Orange and red
The flowers of palash or tesu tree, also called the flame of the
forest, are typical source of bright red and deep orange colours.
Powdered fragrant red sandal wood, dried hibiscus flowers, madder
tree, radish and pomegranate are alternate sources and shades of red.
Mixing lime with turmeric powder creates an alternate source of orange
powder, as does boiling saffron (kesar) in water.
Mehendi and dried leaves of gulmohur tree offer a source of green
colour. In some areas, the leaves of spring crops and herbs have been
used as source of green pigment.
Holi on sale at a market in Mysore
Haldi (turmeric) powder is the typical source of yellow colour.
Sometimes this is mixed with chickpeas, gram or other flour to get the
right shade. Bael fruit, amaltas, species of chrysanthemums, and
species of marigold are alternate sources of yellow.
Indigo plant, Indian berries, species of grapes, blue hibiscus and
jacaranda flowers are traditional sources of blue colour for Holi.
Magenta and purple
Beetroot is the traditional source of magenta and purple colour. Often
these are directly boiled in water to prepare coloured water.
Dried tea leaves offer a source of brown coloured water. Certain clays
are alternate source of brown.
Species of grapes, fruits of amla (gooseberry) and vegetable carbon
(charcoal) offer gray to black colours.
A young man celebrating Holi
Natural colours were used in the past to celebrate
Holi safely by
applying turmeric, sandalwood paste, extracts of flowers and leaves.
As the spring-blossoming trees that once supplied the colours used to
Holi have become more rare, chemically produced industrial
dyes have been used to take their place in almost all of urban India.
Due to the commercial availability of attractive pigments, slowly the
natural colours are replaced by synthetic colours. As a result, it has
caused mild to severe symptoms of skin irritation and inflammation.
Lack of control over the quality and content of these colours is a
problem, as they are frequently sold by vendors who do not know their
A 2007 study found that malachite green, a synthetic bluish-green dye
used in some colours during
Holi festival, was responsible for severe
eye irritation in Delhi, if eyes were not washed upon exposure. Though
the study found that the pigment did not penetrate through the cornea,
malachite green is of concern and needs further study.
Another 2009 study reports that some colours produced and sold in
India contain metal-based industrial dyes, causing an increase in skin
problems to some people in the days following Holi. These colours are
produced in India, particularly by small informal businesses, without
any quality checks and are sold freely in the market. The colours are
sold without labeling, and the consumer lacks information about the
source of the colours, their contents, and possible toxic effects. In
recent years, several nongovernmental organisations have started
campaigning for safe practices related to the use of colours. Some are
producing and marketing ranges of safer colours derived from natural
sources such as vegetables and flowers.
These reports have galvanised a number of groups into promoting more
natural celebrations of Holi. Development Alternatives, Delhi and
Kalpavriksh, – Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group, Pune, The
India campaign and Society for Child Development, through
its Avacayam Cooperative Campaign have launched campaigns to help
children learn to make their own colours for
Holi from safer, natural
ingredients. Meanwhile, some commercial companies such as the National
Botanical Research Institute have begun to market "herbal" dyes,
though these are substantially more expensive than the dangerous
alternatives. However, it may be noted that many parts of rural India
have always resorted to natural colours (and other parts of
festivities more than colours) due to availability.
In urban areas, some people wear nose mask and sun glasses to avoid
inhaling pigments and to prevent chemical exposure to eyes.
An alleged environmental issue related to the celebration of
Holika bonfire, which is believed to contribute to
deforestation. Activists estimate
Holika causes 30,000 bonfires every
year, with each one burning approximately 100 kilograms (220.46 lbs)
of wood. This represents less than 0.0001% of 350 million tons of
India consumes every year, as one of the traditional fuels for
cooking and other uses.
The use of heavy metal-based pigments during
Holi is also reported to
cause temporary wastewater pollution, with the water systems
recovering to pre-festival levels within 5 days.
In June 2015, hundreds of concert-goers in Bali District,
severely injured in the Formosa Fun Coast explosion, including fifteen
who died later in hospital, after three tons of corn starch
powder mixed with food colouring was sprayed onto the crowd at a high
velocity, causing a massive explosion.
The method of powder application at the concert created "an extremely
dense dust cloud over the stage and its immediate vicinity".
People near the stage were standing ankle deep in coloured corn starch
powder and the powder was suspended into the air using air blowers as
well as compressed gas canisters. Initial investigations
into the explosion showed the ignition of the suspended corn starch
powder was likely caused by a cigarette or spark. An Asia One
report states that such an explosion can occur, under certain
conditions, not just with corn starch but with powder form of any
agricultural product such as "powdered milk, soya flour, cornflour,
rice dust, spice powders, sugar, tapioca, cocoa powder, coconut shell
dust, coffee dust, garlic powder, grass dust, malted hops, lemon peel
dust, oat flour, peanut skins, tea and tobacco", and that "the crucial
element is not the composition of the powder itself, but whether it's
deployed under high pressure with a flame nearby."
According to Williamson, flammable powder or dust suspended in air in
high concentrations is explosive. Williamson notes that
"dust cloud explosions can only occur if the dust concentration is
within certain limits. In general the lowest concentration of dust
that can give a dust explosion is around 50-100 g/m3 and the maximum
is 2-3 kg/m3. These limits are dependent on the particular chemical in
question. It is usually easy to see if a cloud is explosible, as
visibility through a dust cloud - even at the lowest concentrations -
Holi celebrations in India, Rinehart writes,
colours are exchanged in person by "tenderly applying coloured powder
to another person's cheek", or by spraying and dousing others with
buckets of coloured water.
Influence on other cultures
Holi celebrations in other cultures
Utah, United States
New York City
The festival of
Holi is increasingly celebrated in many parts of the
world outside India
Holi is celebrated as a social event in parts of the United
States. For example, at Sri Sri
Krishna Temple in Spanish
Fork, Utah, NYC
Holi Hai in Manhattan, New York and
Holi NYC in New York City, New York,
celebrated as the
Festival of Color, where thousands of people gather
from all over the United States, play and mingle.
A number of Holi-inspired social events have also surfaced,
particularly in Europe and the United States, often organised by
companies as for-profit or charity events with paid admission, and
with varying scheduling that does not coincide with the actual Holi
festival. These have included Holi-inspired music festivals such as
Festival Of Colours Tour and
Holi One (which feature timed
Holi powder), and
5K run franchises such as The Color Run,
Holi Run and Color Me Rad, in which participants are doused with
the powder at per-kilometre checkpoints.
There have been concerns that these events appropriate and trivialise
Holi for commercial gain—downplaying or completely
ignoring the cultural and spiritual roots of the
celebration. Organisers of these events have argued that the
costs are to cover various key aspects of their events, such as safe
colour powders, safety and security, and entertainment.
Songkran (Thai festival)
^ a b Since ancient times, the
Indian subcontinent has had several
Hindu calendars, which places
Holi and other festivals on
different local months even though they mean the same date. Some Hindu
calendars emphasise the solar cycle, some the lunar cycle. Further,
the regional calendars feature two traditions of Amanta and Purnimanta
systems, wherein the similar sounding months refer to different parts
of a lunar cycle, thus further diversifying the nomenclature. The
Hindu festival of
Holi falls on the first (full moon) day of Chaitra
lunar month's dark fortnight in the Purnimanta system, while the same
exact day for
Holi is expressed in Amanta system as the lunar day of
Phalguna Purnima. Both time measuring and dating systems are
equivalent ways of meaning the same thing, they continue to be in use
in different regions. In regions where the local calendar
places it in its
Holi is also called Phaguwa.
^ a b The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998)
ISBN 0-19-861263-X - p.874 "
Holi /'həʊli:/ noun a
^ a b Kristi L. Wiley (2009). The A to Z of Jainism. Scarecrow.
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^ a b Lyford, Chris (5 April 2013). "
Hindu spring festivals increase
in popularity and welcome non-Hindus". The Washington Post. New York
City. Retrieved 23 February 2016. Despite what some call the
reinvention of Holi, the simple fact that the festival has transcended
cultures and brings people together is enough of a reason to embrace
the change, others say. In fact, it seems to be in line with many of
the teachings behind
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Festival of Love!"
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India The Wall Street Journal
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Holi in Mauritius. "Just as the many other major
the large Indian majority.. celebrate
Holi with a lot of enthusiasm in
the island of Mauritius. It is an official holiday in the country..."
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Holi Society for the Confluence of Festivals in
Festival Lane Turner, Boston Globe, (5 March 2012)
Festival Rex Li Indrajeet Deshmukh and Marielle Roth, Festival
Circle, IDSS 2013
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Holi in Gujarat
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Hindus are celebrating the
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the rings of the arch. The celebration is part of the
and takes place at the full moon of the month of
Phalguna (February to
^ Dipti Ray (2007). Prataparudradeva, the Last Great Suryavamsi King
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Holi in Tamil Nadu". holifestival.org. Retrieved 16 March
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Nepali Times. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
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COMMUNITY CENTER OF GUJARATI SAMAJ, New York, USA (2013)
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South Africa (2013)
Suriname Insider (2012)
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Festival of Colors Archived 14 September 2013 at the
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^ Ali, Arif (ed.),
Guyana London: Hansib, 2008, p. 69.
^ Smock, Kirk, Guyana: the Bradt Travel Guide, 2007, p. 24.
^ Holi, festival of colours The
Fiji Times (15 March 2011)
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Hindu community celebrates Holi,
Sarah Munir (28 March 2013) Tribune. Retrieved 7 January 2015
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Pakistan parliament adopts resolution for Holi, Diwali, Easter
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India (16 March 2016)
^ How the public holiday on
Holi underscores bigotry in Pakistan,
Dawn, SADIA KHATRI (12 May 2016), Quote: "Today we are announcing a
public holiday for Holi, tomorrow we will be telling everyone to read
Ramayana!’” PSMA Chairman Sharafuz Zaman says.(...) If someone
wants to go play holi, they can go ahead, Zaman goes on, but by
declaring it a public holiday, we have advertised it in every home."
Holi colors Society for the Confluence of Festivals in
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^ Velpandian et al. Ocular hazards of the colours used during the
festival-of-colours (Holi) in India--malachite green toxicity, J
Hazard Mater. 2007, 10 January; 139(2):204-8.
^ Ghosh, S. K., Bandyopadhyay, D., Chatterjee, G., & Saha, D.
(2009), The ‘holi’dermatoses: Annual spate of skin diseases
following the spring festival in India. Indian journal of dermatology.
^ The safe
Holi campaignArchived 26 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
India campaign Archived 23 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "Society For Child Development". Sfcdindia.org. Retrieved 23
Festival Archived 3 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine. What to
wear? UK (2012)
^ "No real attempt to save trees". The Times of India. 17 March
^ Swaminathan and Varadharaj, The status of firewood in India, IUFRO
Symposium Proceedings (2003), pp 150-156
^ Tyagi, V. K., Bhatia, A., Gaur, R. Z., Khan, A. A., Ali, M.,
Khursheed, A., & Kazmi, A. A. (2012), Effects of multi-metal
toxicity on the performance of sewage treatment system during the
festival of colours (Holi) in India, Environmental monitoring and
assessment, 184(12), pp 7517-7529
^ "Months after water park fire, 15th burn victim dies". Focus Taiwan
News Channel. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
^ Forsythe, Michael. "Hundreds Treated for Burns After Fire at Taiwan
Water Park". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
^ Angelo Young. "
Taiwan Water Park Explodes, Injuring At Least 229
People Attending A 'Color Play' Party; Dust Explosion Was Likely
Cause". International Business Times. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
^ "Heavy dust, heat source may have caused explosion, says official".
The China Post, Taiwan. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
^ "Water Park Inferno: Details of pre-blaze conditions emerge". Taipei
Times. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
^ a b c "When Powders Turn Deadly". Asia One. Retrieved 11 July
^ Williamson, George (2002). "Introduction to Dust Explosions".
Archived from the original on 23 December 2004. Retrieved 29 October
^ Williamson, George (2002). "Introduction to Dust Explosions -
concentration range". Archived from the original on 23 December 2004.
Retrieved 29 October 2006.
^ Rinehart, Robin (2004). Contemporary
Hinduism ritual, culture, and
practice. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-57607-905-8.
Holi Moli UNCUNC Global". global.unc.edu.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 November 2016.
^ "2015 Cape Town We Are One Colour
Holi Festivals, Live
Music Concerts & Events South Africa".
^ "Phagwah Parade, Richmond Hills, Queens". H.P.F.C ANNUAL PHAGWAH
^ a b c "
Festival of Colors -
Holi NYC 2016".
Festival of Colors: Holi
Holi Hai 2016". NYC
Holi Hai 2016.
^ Spinelli, Lauren; Editors, Time Out (9 May 2015). "Check out the
multi-colored fun at this year's
Holi party". Time Out New York. New
York City. Archived from the original on 14 May 2015. Retrieved 23
February 2016. Ker-pow! Just when you thought spring couldn't look any
more spectacular, Brooklyn hosted its annual
Festival of Colors
celebration at the Cultural Performing Arts Center (May 9). Partygoers
flung paint powder around with gleeful abandon while grooving the day
and night away, and as you'll see from our photos, this year's bash
was one of the most gloriously messy spring events in NYC.
^ Muncy, C.S. (4 May 2014). "PORTRAITS FROM HOLI NYC". The Village
Voice. New York City. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015.
Retrieved 23 February 2016.
Holi Hai, also known as the
Colors, celebrates the coming of spring, the joy of friendship, and
equality for all. Held on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Yard @ C-PAC
(Cultural Performing Arts Center) in Brooklyn, thousands of
participants joined in to dance and generally cover each other in
colored powder. The powders used in
Holi represent happiness, love,
and the freedom to live vibrantly.
^ "Welcome to HOLI ONE".
Holi One. Birmingham, England. Retrieved 21
October 2016. Thousands of people, dressed in white, come together to
share in music, dance, performance art and visual stimulation. Holi
One brings this unforgettable experience to cities all around the
^ "Color Me Rad 5K Run". SanJose.com. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
^ a b "
Holi festival shows its colours in UK". Al Jazeera.
Retrieved 6 March 2015.
^ a b c "A Spring Celebration of Love Moves to the Fall—and Turns
Into a Fight". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
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Festival of Colours Government of Goa, India
How to practice safe Holi, Government of India
Holi in pictures from The Guardian
Festival of Colors National Geographic Education
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