What is Holi and why is it celebrated?
The Hindu festival Holi, also known as the festival of colours, marks the beginning of the spring season in the Indian subcontinent.
Millions of Hindus worldwide are celebrating Holi, the festival of colours that marks the beginning of the spring season in the Indian subcontinent.
Here is what we know about the festivity.
When is Holi?
Holi is celebrated in Phagun, the 12th month of the Hindu calendar, which corresponds to February or March in the Gregorian calendar.
This year, the festival is being celebrated on March 8, though the festivities tend to run longer in some places.
What’s the story behind Holi and why is it celebrated?
Holi is an occasion to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the end of winter. For many, it’s also an opportunity to meet people and repair broken relationships.
The king had a son called Prahlad who never worshipped his father and worshipped Vishnu instead. Hiranyakashyapu was so displeased that he conspired with his sister Holika to kill his son.
Holika agreed to kill her nephew, luring Prahlad into a pyre and trying to burn him. However, Vishnu came to Prahlad’s rescue and Holika ended up burning in the pyre.
To this day, Hindu devotees celebrate Holika Dahan on the eve of Holi to mark this event by making bonfires in their neighbourhoods.
How long does Holi last?
The celebration of Holi usually lasts for two days, with Holika Dahan and a day of throwing colours at each other being its highlights.
On the day of Holi, people of all ages take to the streets to smear each other with dry or wet paint and get showered in powdered colour and water. There is a lot of dancing and singing.
“People even stand on their rooftops to throw water balloons on random people walking on the streets,” Sashreek Garg, who comes from Una in India’s northern Himachal Pradesh state, told Al Jazeera.
“It’s my favourite festival. It binds people, cultures and even strangers together. Now that I am away from home I miss that feeling of coming together,” said Garg, who is currently a university student in Qatar.
Wishing our Hindu community a very happy Holi.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) March 6, 2023
Vaamika Shrivastava, another Indian from the central Madhya Pradesh state, also says Holi brings people together and that the festival has outgrown its religious boundaries.
Shrivastava says she lived in various places in India and everywhere she saw one constant: Holi.
“In every new place we lived, we used to have Holi parties in an open area in the neighbourhood with lots of colours, water guns and music and it was a party for everyone,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Holi is more than just the religion it comes from. It is about love and celebrating the colours of life at the onset of spring.”
Where is Holi celebrated?
Holi is celebrated in most parts of India, with each region having its own traditions. The celebrations in northern India tend to be more colourful and vivid while those in the south focus mainly on religious and temple rituals.
However, even among the northern states, there is a difference in how long the celebrations last and what people do. Garg, for instance, has never participated in a Holika Dahan bonfire on the eve of Holi. “In Himachal, we don’t do bonfires,” he said.
Andre Visperas is a Hindu practitioner from the Philippines. He said he celebrated Holi for the first time when he went to India for a pilgrimage in Uttar Pradesh state in 2009.
“Before that, I celebrated Holi on my own but I only celebrated the spiritual aspect of it rather than the celebratory traditions such as the throwing of coloured powder,” Visperas told Al Jazeera.
Holi is also celebrated in other South Asian countries like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh which have a sizeable Hindu population. It is also celebrated by the Hindu diaspora in various countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
This year, Holi was also celebrated by hundreds of women in two north Indian towns by playfully hitting men with wooden sticks in response to their “teasing” as part of a ritual.
Greetings on social media
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a message on Twitter, wishing people a “happy and colourful Holi.”
होली की बहुत-बहुत शुभकामनाएं। आप सभी के जीवन में हमेशा आनंद और उमंग का रंग बरसे।
Wishing you all a happy and colourful Holi!
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 8, 2023
India’s Agriculture Minister Ranendra Pratap Swain also took to Twitter and shared an image with his family while also wishing people a Happy Holi.
Celebrating #Holi with my family at #Bhubaneswar.#HappyHoli pic.twitter.com/pzAwjm3yBB
— Ranendra Pratap Swain (@rajaaswain) March 8, 2023
Indian cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Kuldeep Yadav also took to Twitter and congratulated their followers.
Happy Holi everyone!
Can you guess what's on my plate? 🍽️ pic.twitter.com/dV1UxVcc9M
— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) March 7, 2023
Happy Holi from us to you guys #TeamIndia #Holi pic.twitter.com/tFsE0Y36c0
— Kuldeep yadav (@imkuldeep18) March 7, 2023