You might think Fourth of July fireworks are bright and the balloons you share on birthdays have all the colors of the rainbow. However, they both pale in comparison to Holi, the Indian festival of colors.Sharing pictures of Holi celebrations is a popular thing for visitors to do. They pose in their brightly splattered clothing with green, yellow, and pink powder on their skin. Holi is about so much more than throwing color around, however. Its rich history and cultural importance should be required learning for every tourist who wants to take part.
All the photographs that locals and visitors take of the Holi Festival show crowds of people standing and dancing through the streets covered with various shades of powder and liquid paint. Many people think it is just a time to have fun and get colorful. You may think you understand how it feels to be there by looking at the pictures, but I can tell you that it is a completely different experience when you are on the ground with a handful of powder yourself. I consider it one of the top experiences I had during my month in India.
This guide will help visitors from all over the world understand and enjoy Holi more than they ever thought possible. I also share safety tips so nothing ruins the fun
Holi Dates for 2022, 2023 and 2024
Unlike some celebrations around the world, Holi does not occur on the same day every year. Instead, it happens on the day in March after a full moon occurs. This represents the end of the winter months and return to color and life. People celebrate the night before the festival begins with bonfires. They are not only for enjoyment of the evening but traditionally to scare away or get rid of evil spirits. What we may call Holi Eve is actually called Holika Dahan in India.
2022 – Holi will be celebrated from March 14 to March 19
2023 – Holi is already scheduled from March 4 to March 10
2024 – Holi will happen from March 19 to March 25
Most locations in India celebrate Holika Dahan the night before Holi begins. However, in the Odisha and West Bengal, the celebration is named Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima and occurs at the same time as the evening bonfire celebration. All of these holidays focus on Lord Krishna, although the precise legends and tales surrounding their purpose differ.
Vrindavan and Mathura Celebrations of Holi
In Vrindavan, Holi is celebrated for seven whole days. It begins with Phoolon wali and the practice of splashing water is at the flowers outside the Banke Bihari. This is a highly scheduled event that takes place at 4 PM on March 17. Visitors who want to witness it should definitely be there early so you can find a vantage point where the ritual can be seen easily. The people in live in these regions also throw colors around in the morning of March 20, or the day prior to Holi celebrations in other parts of India.
After that occurs in the morning, a 3 PM parade or processional occurs in nearby Mathura. In that location, Holi is still celebrated on the day shared by others around the country and celebrated in the usual way with colored powder and water flying through the air. No special rituals or religious observances occur, so the celebrations gradually wind down until everyone goes home to wash up and rest in the afternoon.
Holi in Nandgaon and Barsana villages have a slightly different celebration style. This Lathmar Holi occurs approximately one week before the actual Holi celebration does. That puts the 2000 team schedule on March 15 or 16th depending on what village you visit. Here, the festival is marked by the women of the village taking long sticks and beating the man over the head with them.
Holi Festival Explained
The meaning behind the Holi Festival comes down to the age-old struggle between good and evil. More specifically, the Narada Purana, a famous Hindu text tells the story of Holika. Her brother was a demon king who had a son named Prahlad. Unfortunately for the king, his son decided to worship Lord Vishnu instead of his own father. This made the demon angry and he attempted to have Holika burn his son alive. The legend continues by describing how Holika cradled the child in her arms while sitting in the fire to protect him. Unfortunately, while Lord Vishnu saved Prahlad due to his strong belief and prayers, his protector Holika burned to death.
The bonfires that are lit the evening before Holi celebrations commence symbolize this story. The belief says that the fires will get rid of evil as long as one’s devotion to the Lord Vishnu is strong. Vishnu is the Hindu god of preservation. The holiday also coincides with solstice celebrations around the world in looking forward to spring farming and growth
How Do People Celebrate Holi?
Despite its start as a celebration of Lord Vishnu and how he saved a particular boy in a story, Holi is not particularly concerned with religious celebrations, rituals, or prayers in any way. Instead, the goal is to have fun, play, make merry, and enjoy each other’s company. Throngs of people take to the streets dancing and singing, playing drums, and tossing colorful powder other people and into the air. This is generally called “playing Holi.”
The powder, called gulal in Hindi, is available for purchase all along the streets and in shops at very low prices. Healthier and more natural colors meet with herbs can cost quite a bit more than that. People throw the powder around dry, make a paste with it and spread it on their skin or clothing, or mix it with water to toss on to others. Children especially love filling water bottles with colorful liquid and squirting them like miniature cannons at passersby.
Any towns or cities that live near a lake or river and the day’s Holi celebrations with everyone going down to the body of water to rinse off, splash, and have more fun. In general, it is a bad day for someone who likes staying clean to go outside. Some people do prefer to celebrate quietly at home.
Where Do People Celebrate Holi?
Despite the fun and the various ways different villages celebrate, Holi generally stays in the northern part of India. The largest cities, Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra, become crowded festivals that can get a bit overwhelming for people not used to the Holi Festival. In the South, only Hampi in Karnataka joins in the celebration.
Some towns are better known for their Holi festivals than others, but most of these cluster in a distance no greater than eight hours away from Delhi. Some of the popular destinations for Holi enthusiasts include Barsana, Nandgaon, Mathura, Vrindavan, and Pushkar. In Vrindavan, people near the Banke Bihari Temple celebrate for seven days straight and use both colorful powder and flowers in their festive activities.
Some Western nations have adopted Holi celebrations into their holiday schedule. It is especially famous in London, England and Las Vegas in the United States. “Color Runs” gain in popularity too. These cross-country races or fun runs include throwing powdered or liquid color at the people as they jog by. Although inspired by Holi, these events are often held on different days and do not have the cultural backing of the holiday in India.
Extra Tips to Survive Holi
Holi is supposed to be a time of fun for everyone involved, but whenever crowds gather, sometimes things can go wrong. Before a more serious topics are discussed, it is important to note that the colored powder that is thrown around with wild abandon does stained clothes, skin, and hair.
If you have light-colored hair, it is recommended to with a thin sheen of oil before securing it under a bandanna or hat that cannot be removed easily. If you have to go back to your corporate headquarters the day after the celebration, it might be best not to allow any powder on your skin. In general, this would mean staying safely inside. Of course, do not wear your best clothes you go out. The outfits you wear will never get clean again, so it will be good only for a bright memory of the fun you had.
Also, avoid getting the powder in your eyes, mouth, or respiratory system. Much of the powder is made from various chemicals instead of the natural herbal varieties. Your eyes may burn and you might find yourself coughing after Holi, so it is best to take precautions possible. In general, the dry powder is easier to remove and brush away than any liquid mixes.
Can Holi Celebrations Be Dangerous?
Besides potential health troubles caused by flying chemical powder, it is possible to run afoul of people who take things too far in their play. Things can get boisterous in crowds. Unfortunately, some people drink to excess or use cannabis coated bhang to enhance their enjoyment of the celebration. This leads to bad behavior in some cases that can take away your enjoyment of the holiday.
Even sober people and small children can cause problems if the crowds are too thick or people become too boisterous. Some children will try to climb on your shoulders so they rise above the crowd and can see what’s going on.
Stick with the smaller towns for a more relaxing and fun-loving experience. Also, consider going with an experienced tour guide to enjoy all the best parts of Holi without getting overwhelmed.
Women Take Special Care to Stay Safe
Crowds, celebrations, possible substance use, and differing values can unfortunately lead to bad behavior by certain people. There have been reports of sexual assault or harassment against women involved in the Holi Festival crowds. If you are a woman, never go out during Holi alone or into unfamiliar parts of the city.
The best advice is to stick with the tour group, stay close so you do not get separated, avoids the thickest crowds where some men may take advantage of proximity, and enjoy Holi in the early mornings instead of the afternoon when more people will be inebriated. Most hotels have organized parties to celebrate Holi with much less risk.
What to Pack for the Holi Celebrations
In order to enjoy the Holi festivals as much is possible, please pack:
↳ Old clothing that covers most of your skin. Women should wear long pants.
↳ A secure hat, bandanna, or scarf to cover your hair
↳ Thin oil to cover your hair, fingernails, and even your skin
↳ Safety glasses or goggles (optional)
↳ A paper dust or medical mask (optional)
↳ Cameras only with waterproof or dustproof cases
↳ Plenty of soap and body scrub to get the colors of your skin afterward