This week marks the beginning of spring for many Hindus across the world in a unique celebration filled with colour and joy. In countries such as Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, many people take to the streets to celebrate the last lunar cycle of winter during this time. Known as the Holi Festival of Colour, this occasion celebrates the Hindu legend of Radhu and Krishna found in a 7th century Sanskrit manuscript. According to this document, Krishna wanted fairer skin like Radhu, so his mother evened out the balance by having Krishna apply vivid colours to Radhu’s face. This story also signifies saying goodbye to the winter season and welcoming spring, the season of love and colour.
For those visiting Delhi, Mumbai or any other Indian cities during the Holi Festival, it may be advisable to wear white clothes as people commonly celebrate the festival by applying or throwing brightly coloured powder and water at each other all in the name of fun. Holi usually lasts for two to five days depending on whereabouts it is being celebrated. However, in the Braj region of Northern India where the Hindu deity Krishna grew up, the festival may last up to 16 days. On the evening of the first day of Holi, a public bonfire is usually held in commemoration to the burning of Holika, a demoness in Hindu scriptures which signifies the triumph of good. The Festival of Colours is a time for Hindus to relax social codes and reduce the barriers between the rich and underprivileged as well as the young and elders by coming together to celebrate a joyous occasion. The bright colours represent new beginnings, freedom and equality as the festival encourages Hindus from varying backgrounds to join together.
Depending on the region, Holi is celebrated in different ways. For example, in Manipur, the festival commences with the burning of a thatched hut of hay and twigs followed by group folk dancing and music. In Marthura, Hindus celebrate through the traditional custom of worshipping Lord Krishna in temples. In West Bengal, Holi is celebrated in a more dignified manner by placing the icons of Krishna and Radha on a decorated palanquin which is then paraded around the town’s main streets. In a more unusual traditional practice, the women of Barsana village use Holi to pretend to attack men from neighbouring villages with sticks in what is known as Lathamar Holi. Many tour companies such as On the Go Tours offer exclusive festival tours during the Holi festival in Delhi, which include tours of the Taj Mahal and other sights of interest like the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri. As one of the larger cities in India, Delhi may become busier than normal during this time and the city also hosts a festival called the Holi Moo Festival which has more than 40 Indian and international performers spread over four stages. It is also set to include street art and performers as well as a large food market area which sells Indian street food.
Besides major Hindu regions, the Holi Festival is celebrated all over the world and many event companies now host Holi inspired events in cities such as London, New York and Berlin. According to the London Holi Festival of Colour official website, this modern take on Holi festival involves celebrating by applying or throwing coloured powders and offers the opportunity to watch live performances from international DJs and bands. London’s Holi Festival of Colours 2016 is due to take place on the 12th September 2016 at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Why might the start of spring be celebrated so widely by many cultures around the world?