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Essential Guide to the Holi Festival in India


Holi, The Festival of Colors, India
Poras Chaudhary/Stone/Getty Images
The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.

Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.

The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.

When is Holi Celebrated:

The day after the full moon in March each year. In 2015, Holi will be celebrated on March 6. It will happen a day earlier in parts of eastern India, such as West Bengal.

Find out when is Holi in future years.

Where is Holi Celebrated:

You'll find Holi festivities taking place in most areas of India. However, they're more exuberant in some places than others. Check out these 6 Places to Celebrate the Holi Festival in India (and one region that should be avoided).

Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest at Mathura, four hours from Delhi. Viator offers two day exclusive Holi festival trips to Mathura from Delhi.

How is Holi Celebrated:

People spend the day smearing colored powder all over eachother's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations.

See pictures of Holi celebrations in this Holi Festival Photo Gallery.

What Rituals are Performed During Holi:

The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of the demoness Holika. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion and to burn evil spirits. This is known as Holika Dahan.

What to Expect During Holi:

Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. You'll end up saturated in water, with color all over your skin and clothes. Some of it doesn't wash out easily, so be sure to wear old clothes. It's also a good idea to rub hair oil or coconut oil into your skin beforehand, to prevent the color from absorbing.

Holi Safety Information:

Single women should avoid going out alone in public places during Holi, as inebriated young Indian males often pose a safety threat. These males, who have consumed excessive amounts of bhang and other intoxicants, will inappropriately touch women and make a nuisance of themselves. They are usually in groups and can be very aggressive. Incidents of rape also do occur, which makes it important to take proper care during Holi.

If you plan on going out into the streets on Holi, do so early in the morning. Be back in your hotel by midday before the men get too inebriated.

Find out people's views and experiences in this poll: Do Misbehaving Men Bother You on Holi?

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