Holi is one of the most popular festivals in India, celebrating the coming of spring with bursts of colour and fire.
The ancient Hindu festival is also known as the festival of colours, coming usually near or on the vernal equinox. Hindus celebrate it by smearing each other with coloured powder, spraying each other with coloured water from pichkaris (water guns), or pelting each other with water balloons and eggs.
The official festival begins today. We’ve collected some of the most spectacular photos from this year’s festivities in India here.
Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It originates from an ancient Hindu story about the fall of the demon king Hiranyakashipu and his evil sister Holika. The king’s son Prahlada opposed his evil father. To silence Prahlada, Holika convinced Prahlada to sit on a bonfire with her. When the fire was lit, the god Vishnu protected Prahlada and let Holika burn.
On the eve of Holi, a bonfire topped with an effigy of Prahlada and Holika is lit. People then sing and dance around the fire.
The next day, people spray coloured powder or coloured solutions onto each other to celebrate Prahalada’s triumph and the defeat of winter by spring.
The main day of the Holi festival is called Dhuleti.
Teens and young people often dance to the beat of the dholak, a two-headed hand-drum common in South Asia.
Traditionally, washable, natural plant-derived colours are used, including turmeric, neem, dhak, and kumkum. In recent years, water-based commercial pigments have begun to be used.
Anyone in an open area such as a street, park, or any other public place is fair game to be hit with colour from the pichkaris or water balloons. Any private residence is fair game to be smeared with the coloured powder.
Most often, children are sprayed with the colour solutions.
While adults get smeared with the dry coloured powder.
The festival is craziest for kids, but everyone gets in the on the fun.
Widows do not usually partake in Holi, as they are supposed to renounce earthly pleasures. However, this year, the nonprofit Sulabh International organised a celebration for widows at an ashram in Vrindavan.
The celebration is not wild in every part of India. In some Western parts of India, the festival includes far more praying and singing of hymns.
In most regions of India, however, there is no prayer. The day is meant for partying and fun.
After everyone is soaked in colour, participants clean up and head to their family’s and friends’ houses for traditional delicacies. The festival is an opportune time to mend fences with estranged friends and family — it is also considered “the festival of forgiveness.”
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