Holi, a Hindu festival which turns the streets into a blaze of colour to mark the start of spring, is almost here.
The holiday is a joyous two-day event of dancing, feasting, and general mayhem – complete with plenty of coloured paint and water pistols.
Celebrations start the night before the main Holi festival with Holika Dahan, when people light bonfires to mark the victory of good over evil.
But just what is Holi about, and where did the celebration come from?
Here’s what you need to know.
When is Holi in 2023?
This year, Holi festival falls on Wednesday, March 8 – but the celebrations will begin the night before.
The date of Holi is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar which means it is not the same every year, but does fall around the same time.
Holi is a national holiday in India and Nepal, and is also observed by Hindus across the globe.
Why is Holi celebrated?
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and the coming of spring, and has been celebrated for centuries.
It lasts for a night and a day, taking place on the last full moon of the Hindu lunar month Phalguna.
The first day is called Holika Dahan, while the second is known as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah.
While Holi is an ancient Hindu festival, it has become popular with non-Hindus in South Asia, Europe, and North America, among other places.
Festivities can last even longer in some places. In the Braj region around Mathura in north India, the fun can last over a week, while the area also has a unique ritual where men go around with shields and women have the right to playfully beat them with sticks.
What’s the story of Holi?
The festival originates from the story of the arrogant King Hiranyakashipu.
He asked to be worshipped as he believed he was invincible, and subsequently punished his son Prahlada for remaining loyal to the god Vishnu instead.
When Prahlada’s evil aunt tried to trick him into sitting on a burning pyre, thereby getting rid of him for good, her magic cloak flew off her back and protected him instead, leaving her to burn to death.
Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu got his comeuppance after Vishnu appeared as a half-human, half-lion creature and took him away, destroying him with his claws.
Why do people throw paint during Holi?
It is widely believed that the paint-throwing is based on the legend of deity Krishna, who was self-conscious about the blue colour of his face.
He was in despair because he believed Radha the milkmaid wouldn’t like him.
He told his mother, Devaki, who advised him to paint Radha’s face so that the colour wouldn’t matter.
Today, it’s traditional for lovers to paint their faces the same colour – and for plenty of paint to be thrown around. People also exchange messages and greetings.
Red symbolises love, while green stands for nature and new beginnings. Blue is linked to the gods, yellow stands of meditation, happiness and peace, and purple symbolises magic and mystery.
How can I join in?
If you see paint throwing, just embrace it and take part. Holi is a time to celebrate and rejoice.
Some events will take place over the weekends before or after Holi. There are plenty to choose from, including:
- Cinnamon Kitchen’s Holi Supper Club on Tuesday, March 7, with a five -course dinner followed by paint throwing in a special Holi pod.
- The London ki-Holi family-friendly event from 12 noon- 7pm on Saturday. March 11 in Romford, Essex.
- Magic of India’s family-friendly Holi Colour Party in London’s Swiss Cottage on Sunday, March 12.
MORE : When is Purim, what is the Jewish festival and how is it usually celebrated?
MORE : The meaning behind Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s red bracelet
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