If you want to add a splash of color to your life — quite literally — come celebrate Holi in India. To say that Holi is one of the most colorful holidays anywhere would be an understatement, for one of the main rituals associated with this spring “Festival of Color” is to douse friends and passers-by with brightly dyed powder and water. If you missed it last month, not to worry: next year, Holi takes place on March 23-24, 2016, and you can experience it on our Exotic India and the Sacred Ganges journey.)
Holi commemorates the triumph of Prahlada, a dutiful worshipper of Vishnu, over his own evil family, who were jealous of his devotion to the god. According to legend, Prahlada’s evil aunt Holika tried to trick him into sitting on a pyre with her. But her plan backfired, and instead of Prahlada being consumed by the fire, Holika was. The bonfires that kick off the Holi celebration are symbolic of this event, signifying the triumph of good over evil. Since Holi takes place at the start of spring, it is also a festival of renewal, love, and new beginnings. Many Indians see it as a time to repair broken relationships and forgive old conflicts. Celebrated on the day after the full moon, it’s an occasion for bonfires, parades, food and drink (including bhang, a beverage made from cannabis), and much playfulness. Everyone takes part in the festivities, though Holi is a special favorite among young people, who rush onto the streets with water guns and colored powders (Gulal), chase after their friends, and indulge in general merrymaking.
Each region of India has its own variations on the Holi celebration, but the holiday is especially revered in the Braj region, due to its association with Krishna, who is believed to have grown up here. The Braj includes the Ganges-Yamuna Doab area and lies well within the Delhi-Jaipur-Agra “Golden Triangle” that our Exotic India and the Sacred Ganges journey visits. In a second story connected to Holi, Lord Krishna (whose skin was blue) feared that no woman would love him due to his unusual hue. His mother convinced him to approach the fair-skinned Radha and color her face any color he wanted. He did so, and Radha became his adoring wife. So in the Braj, Holi is also a celebration of love. Should you join us here in March, you may observe (and perhaps take part in) some of the fun of this most unusual holiday.