Celebrate the Holi Festival in India

in India

India is gearing up for the Holi Festival, a carefree two-day event which celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and looks forward to a successful springtime harvest ahead. It is celebrated on the day following March’s full moon. In 2011 the event will be held on Sunday, March 20 in most parts of India, although East Indian towns including West Bengal celebrate a day early.

The Holi festival was first conceived when the demoness Holika was burned to death. This allowed the Indian people to devote themselves to the holy Hindu god, Lord Vishnu. The ritual is remembered at modern celebrations with large bonfires.

It’s not hard to see why the Holi Festival is often called the Festival of Colors. Colored powder and water is thrown about, leaving Indian cities and their people looking like a rainbow. This practice pays homage to Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu who would mischievously throw water and colors at local girls. It’s great fun if you don’t mind being messy and soaked through! Just remember to wear old clothes, as the colors often refuse to budge. Rubbing coconut oil onto your hair and skin can also prevent the dyes absorbing.

A paste made from cannabis called bhang is also traditionally enjoyed during the Holi festival. The drug is mixed in drinks and used as an ingredient in pakoras and vadas. Just be careful, as bhang is very intoxicating!

You’ll find Holi Festival events in most tourist cities in India, although some locations celebrate more enthusiastically than others. Celebrations are traditional and quite subdued in Mathura and Vrindavan, but loud and proud in Delhi. Culturally rich revelry in the towns of Shantiniketan and Purulia in West Bengal are a real spectacle, and in Jaipur the event is run alongside an elephant festival!

Painted girls at India's Holi Festival

Painted girls at India's Holi Festival

Most events during Holi are free, so celebrating along with the locals is a great way for frugal travelers to spend their time. Just remember to be on your guard if you’re a single woman. While most Indians are friendly and relaxed during festival time, the combination of alcohol and bhang can make some men dangerous. Traveling with a group of friends, ideally including some men, can help women stay safe in India during Holi Festival time.

[Image Source: Chris Willis/Flickr]

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