Bright colours, powder throwing and the idea of good trumping evil—the traditional Hindu celebration of Holi Festival is quickly becoming a global event. Here’s everything you need to know.
When is Holi?
In Hindu culture, Holi Festival is the ‘festival of Spring’, the ‘festival of colours’ or the ‘festival of love’.
It takes place on the evening of the full moon that comes between late February and mid March. Lasting two days, the festival will take place this year between 9th and 10th March 2020.
What is the meaning behind Holi?
There are many Hindu legends surrounding Holi Festival. However, the one that’s most widely believed is the Legend of Prahlada and Holika.
Holika was the sister of the Hindu demon king, Hiranyakashipu, an immortal who believed himself to be king of the universe. After he was granted said immortality, Hiranyakashipu turned evil, killing anyone who disobeyed him. His son, Prahlad disowned him and instead worshipped the Hindu god, Vishnu. Shamed by his evil ways, Prahlad eventually decided to kill his father. But when the king found out, he asked Holika to help. Holika was tasked with the mission to take Prahlad into a bonfire whilst wearing a protective cloak that prevented her from being harmed herself.
However, Holika’s protective cloak flew from her shoulders in the bonfire. Instead, it covered Prahlad and burned Holika to death. In the legend, Lord Vishnu then kills Hiranyakashipu by appearing as half-lion, half-man and sidestepping his immortal powers. Prahlad then rules as king.
Holi therefore represents the victory of good over evil, with Vishnu and Prahlad representing good and Hiranyakashipu and Holika representing evil. It also marks the end of Winter, the start of Spring and brand new beginnings.
How do people celebrate Holi?
Holika Dahan, the first evening of Holi Festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. This phase of the festival sees festival goers gathering around a bonfire and praying against evil forces, with the bonfire symbolising Holika’s death.
The second day is actual Holi, or Rangwali Holi. During this phase, huge crowds throw colourful power mixed with water on each other. This custom is now adopted by many non predominantly Hindu countries across the world as they pay tribute to the festival. The four main colours of Holi—red, blue, green and yellow—are symbolic in Hinduism. Red reflects love, blue represents determination, green symbolises life and yellow marks knowledge.
Where is Holi celebrated?
Holi is mostly popular in India and Nepal, but is becoming increasingly popular around the world. In India, different regions celebrate in different ways, with some people taking to the street to sing and dance. Others, meanwhile celebrate by cooking traditional foods such as sweet potato and lentil curry, Peshwari naan and spring onion bhajis.
In the UK, there are many events taking place, particularly in major cities such as London, Manchester and Leeds. Leicester, which has a large Hindu population, is also hosting various events. Click here to find out more about Holi Festival events taking place in the UK.