By now you’ve probably seen a color run, or even participated in one yourself. If you’ve ever wondered where they got the crazy idea to throw fistfuls of neon colored powder at each other, it actually comes from a centuries-old festival in central India called the Holi Festival, which happens on March 13 in 2017.
Every full moon during the month of March (or sometimes late February), people all over India cover each other from head to toe in brightly colored powder in intense shades of pink, green, purple and yellow. The tradition comes from a story of the prominent Hindu god, Lord Krishna and his lover Radha. Legend has it that a young Krishna, who had dark blue skin himself, rubbed colorful dyes on Radha’s face while courting her to color her skin like his. Over the centuries the day has evolved into the Holi festival we know today.
The energy of Holi is nothing short of electric. Streets are packed with people wielding bags of neon-colored powder and squirt guns full of dyed water; the words “Happy Holi” are repeated over and over as people color each other. The coloring practices vary from a gentle thumb full of powder brushing against someone’s cheek to a bucket of colored water falling from three stories above. While most people take fistfuls of powder and hurl it over the crowds leaving a wake of color, others play Holi with the pull of a squirt gun trigger. During Holi, there’s no way of making it out without being completely covered in color, so grab a bag of powder and join in.
The Holi festival is actually two days long, and the second day is the one most people associate with the celebration since it’s when the vibrant colors come out. The first day of Holi starts in the evening where large bonfires are lit and people gather to perform religious rituals in front of the flames. People believe that by performing these rituals their internal evils will be destroyed in the fire. After a night of prayer and ritual, it’s time to rest and get ready for a wild day full of colorful celebrations.
Holi is a festival where everyone is welcome, including visitors. However, plan on some extra attention when joining in on the festivities, especially from the kids. Many festival goers love to play Holi with tourists and you’re sure to receive lots of extra attention and plenty of color. Since the festival’s origin actually comes from using the colors to make everyone the same, the day of Holi is meant to transcend class and help bring people together. After all, that’s how it started.
As the sun sets on day two, the streets clear and people return to their homes to wash off the powders and attempt to return to their normal colors. It’s best to wear clothes that you won’t mind being forever tie-dyed by the Holi festival. The dye in the powders can be quite potent, sometimes leaving skin and hair a bit more pink or green than when the day started. After a few showers, it’s time to head to the temple in the evening. People also prepare special foods eaten only around the time of Holi.
This colorful festival should be on the bucket list of travelers who long to see cultural festivals that are still alive and well. Holi is also a favorite among photographers as the vibrant colors make for out-of-this-world shots; just make sure to protect your camera.
Holi definitely is the world’s most colorful festival!