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Holi Festival



 

What :

Holi is one of the most colorful and celebrated festivals observed across all regions of India. The festival gets a lot of coverage in the international media and is very popular due to the widespread use of colors during the festivities. The image of Indians of all ages, genders and social stature partying together spraying each other with a spectrum of colors is one of the most popular images of the country that endures in the global tourism narrative.


However, there is much more to the Holi festival and its many observances, prayers and festivities than just the playful frolicking of colors. The Holi festival is celebrated for a variety of reasons. The festival has been a traditional celebration to welcome spring as well as give thanks for an abundant harvest and celebrate soil fertility across all regions of India.

Holi is also commemorated by devout Hindus as a celebration marking the triumph of righteousness and religious devotion over evil and egotism. The legend of Holi originates from the story of Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons who in a fit of egotistic rage condemned his son Pralahda to death by fire for being a devotee to the Hindu deity Vishnu. As part of his sentencing, the sister of the king called Holika who was impervious to fire was to sit with Pralahda in a bonfire and ensure his death. Howeve,r as the fire raged Prahlada extolled the virtues of Vishnu, as the true God of the righteous, which saved him and instead burnt his invincible aunt Holika in the process. Hindus mark the occurrence as signifying the victory of faith and righteousness over ego and strength.

Holi therefore takes its name from the deceased villainess of the story Holika. Around India, the festival is traditionally celebrated with great zeal and fervor with devotees lighting bonfires, singing hymns and spraying anyone within range with colored dye as well as colored powder.

Holi is celebrated every year across India during the period called the Phaluga Purnima which is always a full moon and falls on dates between February and March according to the Gregorian calendar. The Holi festival is also called many different names across India such as Phakuwa, Dol Jatra, Jatra, Sigmo and Phagwa etc.)

Different regions of India celebrate Holi festivities at varying lengths. In Northern India, in cities like Mathura which is the birth place of Lord Krishna, another deity honored during Holi, the festival is marked by special prayer sessions and festivities lasting for over 16 days. Most regions generally celebrate Holi for a period of 3 to 7 days with the day of the festival of colors and bonfires marking the highlight of the celebrations.

While the spraying of colors and the lighting of bonfires are the common threads of all Holi festivities across India, there are distinct variations in the commemoration of Holi in many different regions which gives Holi in different parts of India a unique character.

In Gujarat, in the western part of India, apart from the staple celebrations of color dousing, young men form large human pyramids in an effort to reach a suspended clay pot of buttermilk which needs to be broken while the girls spray the young men with colored paint in an effort to deny them victory. Similarly in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, there is a local tradition called “Lath Mar Holi” during which women symbolically beat up men with wooden sticks who try to steal sweets from them. There is a variation of this ritual in other parts of India where married women roll up their traditional saris to symbolically beat up their brothers-in-law who come to steal butter from their house to commemorate the actions of Lord Krishna and his family.

In Bengal, the traditional colors and bonfires of Holi are also accompanied by a large number of swings that the devotees use to honor Lord Krishna and his consort Radha thereby turning Holi into a festival of colors as well as swings. Similarly in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, the Holi festival is marked with all traditional activities and fervor however the focus of prayers are local deities such as Lord Jagganath instead of Lord Krishna.

Holi is also very popular in states of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Goa where the majority Muslim and Christian communities observe the rituals of playing with colors and honoring the arrival of spring thereby making Holi one of the most pluralistic and multi-cultural festivals to be celebrated across all of India.

The Northern Indian state of Uttrakhand has its own spin to Holi. The festival is celebrated here with traditional fervor however the ingredients of the bonfire as well as the color being used are all made traditionally from organic materials such as tree bark, ash, food coloring and flower essence.

Holi festivities are also observed widely in South Indian cities of Cochin, Mumbai and Chennai with a signature mix of colors, parties and traditional feasts.

The most vocal celebrations of Holi however are held in Rajasthan, India’s largest and most boisterous state. The entire atmosphere is covered in a cloud of colors as whole cities come out to zealously participate in the celebrations of Holi. In Jaipur, the Holi festival is accompanied by the annual Jaipur Elephant Festival which honors the majestic animals and their mahouts across the state.

The festival while maintaining the traditions of Holi including colors, bonfires and prayer rituals also has traditional Rajasthani sports and elephant shows as well as a world famous elephant pageant. Other cities of Rajasthan such as Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Udaipur also celebrate Holi with traditional zeal and bravado.


When :

Holi is celebrated across all of India and in countries around the world with large Hindu populations or Indic diaspora communities such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Gulf Arab countries, the European Union, Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, South Africa, Canada and the USA.

All regions of India have their own unique spin on Holi and have regional activities and ancillary festivals as part of the Holi celebrations. Holi celebrations usually last from 3 to 7 days and reach a crescendo on the Phalguna Purnima which is the date of the full moon according to the traditional Hindu calendar.

According the Gregorian calendar, the dates for the Holi Festival usually fall between February and March. The date for Holi celebrations in India during 2014 is March 7.


Where :

Holi is celebrated all over India and its many regions. The best places for tourists to observe festivities during Holi include cities of Delhi, Agra and Varanasi in North India as well as in cities of Jaipur in Rajasthan.

The most colorful and prominent Holi celebrations in North India are celebrated in the western part of Uttar Pradesh state in towns of Barsana, Mathura and Nandgaon, which are associated with the Hindu deity Lord Krishna and can be accessed from New Delhi.

Celebrations for Holi are also very upbeat in cities of South India such as Mumbai, Chennai and Cochin making it an interesting time to visit India.

Some activities that are common to all Holi festivities across India include dousing all participants and passer-bys with colored paint or powder, celebratory music and organizing of major feasts with loads of food and sweets. Many regions also use the occasion of the Holi festival to mark other fortuitous events such as successful harvests as well as salutations to regional deities and have region specific activities as part of the Holi festivities as well.


Who :

Holi would be of interest to any visitor wishing to immerse in the cultural landscape of India as well as for enthusiasts of contemporary religions, mythology and history. Holi represents the best opportunity for visitors not just to see a unique Hindu festival but also see the kaleidoscope of India’s multi-culturalism.

Holi is celebrated across all regional and religious divides of India and is celebrated in a tolerant and pluralistic manner bringing together various communities in the country. The various regional spin-offs and added activities during the Holi festival also provide visitors an opportunity to see India’s cultural diversity, rich historical heritage, traditional hospitality and easy going character.


Appropriate Attire :

Holi in India is a most colorful festival that is celebrated with wild abandon. Festivities during Holi involve spraying colored powder and liquid dyes on everyone within range on all roads and public areas. Visitors to the country during this period are also considered to be part of the festivities and are fair game as targets for color splashes.

While most dyes and powdered color may wash off, some may leave a more permanent stain on clothing. It is therefore advisable that during Holi festivities visitors should dress appropriately in clothing where staining is not a huge concern.

For photography enthusiasts, Holi festivities make for some amazing and interesting photo opportunities considering the lively atmosphere and the entire spectrum of color in the air. However appropriate safeguards need to be taken to protect expensive camera equipment from paint and powdered colors that are sprayed on all and sundry within range of people celebrating Holi with traditional gusto.



Guest Reviews about Holi Festivals :

 
  Georgina Ong
February 2013
Our tour guide in Jaipur and Agra was excellent! He was always conscientiously telling us to watch where we were walking where there were stairs that we were not aware of. He was considerate, smart, punctual, nice personality, loaned us some rupees when we did not have any at Amber Fort to purchase some souvenirs and very patient. I also liked the dinner at the Nobleman's home. Good food, very hospitable and learned lots about arranged marriages and daily family livelihood. Our driver was very attentive, always smiling, he heard me say I wish we could have seen a cremation and saw one person being decorated and deliberately stopped so I could take a photo. It was nice that our guide reported to Guest Relations that Anne missed some of the tour because she became ill and they followed up with a phone call. REFERENCE AVAILABLE. SMALL GROUP TRAVEL
 
 

 
  Patricia Werhahn – Three Family Members
February 2013
My entire family truly enjoyed our trip to India and Easy Tour definitely made it amazing. We really appreciated the fact that everything was on time and very efficiently organized. We enjoyed all the sites! We definitely would recommend Easy Tour to anyone looking to travel on a private tour in India and if we travel there again, we will use Easy Tour again. Oh and we must have had the best driver in India for the portion of Delhi to Udaipor. He was just amazing! All our guides were excellent except for the one in Jodhpur. All the other guides always very enthusiastic. REFERENCE AVAILABLE.  INDEPENDENT TRAVEL
 
 

 


Guest Reviews for India Tours