There’s nothing quite like the messy, carefree festival of Holi. Literally, you have to see it to believe it.
Social boundaries are blurred with rainbow colours. Collective minds are lost, decorum is abandoned and everything goes a little bit wild. Faces are smeared with gulal (brightly coloured powder), water-fights abound, there is light-hearted teasing and merry-making. It’s a day of boisterous pranks and capers, of cheeky behaviour and uncontrollable laughter. Differences are forgotten and a wonderful, joyful mess ensues that somehow wipes slates clean. It encourages forgiveness, mending and a chance to start afresh.
With origins in India from as early as the fourth century, little has changed over the centuries to a festival that is steeped in Hindu legend and history. Holi celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and heralds the start of Spring. The date changes every year as it falls on the day after the full moon in March. This year it is 23rd March, although traditionally, celebrations officially start the night before (Holika Dahan) with the lighting of bonfires and much singing and dancing. This ceremony is believed to aid the destruction of the demoness Holika, to pave the way for unwavering devotion to Lord Vishnu. Holi, or The Festival of Colours, was so named by Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colours. It also marks the end of winter and the beginning of the abundance of upcoming Spring. The colours thrown used to have medicinal significance to stave off colds and viruses brought about by the damp Spring weather. Historically they were made from natural medicines such as neem, cumin and turmeric. Today non-toxic and natural bright powders are used. (Click here to see how to make your own version).
Over the years, it has become a time to break social boundaries and in their place welcome tolerance, laughter and celebration (and a lot of gulal). Parties are marvellous, messy affairs, filled with joy and attended by revellers of all ages, backgrounds and faiths to celebrate love, frolics and of course, colour. The world over people come together, and not just in March, but throughout the year at Holi music festivals, street parties and in the most modern reincarnation, the Colour Run. This is a fantastic mixture of fun run, obstacle courses and masses of powder paint. People from all walks of life have enormous fun, end up extremely messy whilst simultaneously raising money for great causes. So popular has this become that by simply googling the word Holi you’ll find the party or charity event nearest to you. Happy Holi!