Holi is a Hindu festival that is predominantly celebrated in India and Nepal, and also in other parts of the world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. It is popularly known as the Spring Festival or Festival of Colours, as it signifies the arrival of spring and the end of winter. Holi is a festival that also celebrates the beginning of a good spring harvest season.
Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus as well. On the day that it is celebrated, people meet one another, dance and sing, and throw colours at each other.
WHEN IT IS CELEBRATED:
Holi, which is celebrated for a night and a day, starts on the evening of Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Vikram Samvat calendar, in the Hindu calendar month of Phalgun, which falls around the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar.
HOW IT IS CELEBRATED:
The first evening is known as Holika Dahan (burning of demon Holika) or Chhoti Holi, and during this time people gather, perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire, and pray that their internal evil is destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire.
The next day is celebrated as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah, and during this time, people get together smear each other with powdered colours, sing and dance, and eat. At this time, people go all out and use water guns and balloons filled with coloured water to throw at one another, with the fun and frolic taking place mostly on the streets, parks, and temples.
There would also be groups of people who carry drums and other musical instruments, and who would go from place to place, singing and dancing. There is a lot to eat and drink too, with some of the delicacies being traditional items like gujiya, mathri, malpuas, and the customary drink being bhang, which is made from cannabis and which is intoxicating.
After playing the whole day, towards evening people would head back to their own homes to freshen up and put on their best clothes before they visit their family and friends.
DIFFERENT CELEBRATIONS & NAMES:
Most of the states in India have different ways of celebrating Holi, but one state has a unique way of celebrating it. Called Lath Mar Holi, the celebrations take place days before the actual Holi in the neighbouring towns of Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Legend has it that Lord Krishna visited his beloved Radha's village on this day and playfully teased her and her friends. Taking offence at this, the women of Barsana chased him away. Keeping in sync with the story, the men from Nandgaon visit the town of Barsana every year, only to be greeted by sticks (aka lathis) of the women there. The ladies hurl sticks at the men, who try to shield themselves as much as they can. The unlucky ones are captured by the enthusiastic women who then, make the men wear female clothing and dance in public.
In Assam, Holi is called Phakuwa/Doul or Doul Jatra, in Bihar and Jharkhand it is called Phaguwa in the local Bhojpuri dialect, in Goa it is called Ukkuli in Konkani, in Gujarat as Dhuleti, in Maharashtra it is also called Shimga, in Odisha it is called Dola, in Uttarakhand it is referred to as Baithki Holi, Khari Holi and Mahila Holi, and in West Bengal it is called Dol Jatra, Dol Purnima or the Swing Festival.