The Hindu Festival of Holi
Learn about the Hindu celebration of Holi by Awake in the World blogger Debra Moffitt.
Naturally Colorful Celebrations
The colors of Holi celebrate the renewal that arrives with the flowers and colors of spring. The colors were traditionally made from flowers, herbs and roots with medicinal value which may have been considered to act as protection against fevers and illness associated with the change of season. The powders were made from neem, turmeric, beetroot and its juice, henna and other natural plants. Red, green, yellow, blue and black powders fly from rooftops and in crowded squares and the festival transcends classes and caste. The colors used which were once made naturally from flowers are now often artificial. Environmental movements encourage a return to natural colors. The festival is celebrated over several days and may include creating beautiful and intricate rangoli or kolam patterns at the thresholds of houses as a way to bless visitors and those who enter.
Families also gather around a bonfire where an effigy of Holika is burned to recall the triumph of Prahlad and the burning of his evil sister. Like many spring festivals around the world, it may also represent the burning away of the dullness of winter. Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha, are also associated with Holi. The day after the burning of Holika, some people place the ash from the fire mixed with sandalwood paste on their foreheads. Though for many people it is a secular holiday, Holi ultimately signifies the triumph of good over evil and of sensual values over spiritual ones.
Holi Around the World
As the Indian population grows, Holi is becoming a familiar festival celebrated on campuses and at Hindu and Indian homes worldwide. Elders may share stories and legends of Holi while families cook special dishes, decorate homes and exchange gifts. In Nepal, Holi is a national holiday. It’s also celebrated in England, South Africa and elsewhere around the globe.