The Festival of Colors

What is Holi?

Holi is known as the Festival of Colors.It is celebrated to mark the end of the cold season. According to the Hindu calender, Holi is celebrated on the first full-moon in the Hindu month of Phagluna. This holiday was named after the demoness Holika. One ritual of Holi includes people throwing colored powder and water at each other. This ritual came to be when Lord Krishna, the human incarnation of VIshnu, fell in love with a beautiful girl named, Radha. To express their love for each other, Krishna and Radha would throw powders at each other. The Indians follow what Krishna and Radha did because they want to show their love and devotion to the deities.

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People in the streets of India throw colored powder and water at each other.


Holi used to be celebrated in Northern India only. Now, thanks to modernization in India, Holi is nationally celebrated.

How did Holi Come to Be?

The holiday Holi came from a story in Hindu Mythology. Demoness Holika had a Demon brother Hiranyakashipu. He was devoted to Lord Brahma. One day, lord brahma was very pleased with Hiranyakashipu and asked to grant one wish of his. Hiranyakashipu wanted eternal life, and that is what he got. All the power however, went to his head and Hiranyakashipu started telling people not to worship any god, but worship him, a demon. He often killed people who disobeyed his order. Hiranyakashipu’s son was Prahlada. He was devoted to Lord Vishnu, the god of protection. One day, Hiranyakashipu found out that Prahlada was not devoted to him, his father, but lord Vishnu. He got very angry with his son and threatened to kill him. Prahdala replied calmly, saying that Lord Vishnu would protect him from any harm. Hiranyakashipu didn’t believe this, so he sent in his sister Holika, to burn Prahlada to death. Holika had a magical boon that prevented her from catching on fire. Holika lit a bonfire and carried Prahlada towards it. In the end, Prahlada's devotion paid off because he was saved from the fire while Holika was burned to death. Then, Lord Vishnu appeared in a half-man avatar and killed Hiranyakashipu.

What Happens During the Night of Holi?

On the night of Holi, many people gather in the streets to see huge bonfires being built. These bonfires let us remember the death of Holika, and the triumph of Prahlada. They reenact the myth with elaborate costumes. At the end of the reenactment, the burn a sacrifice replica of Holika in the bonfires, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. After the fires have gone out the next morning, the citizens collect the ashes that it has left behind. These ashes of the replica are thought to bring good luck and prosperity until the next Holi, when this ritual will occur again.
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This is one of the bonfires lighted to burn demoness Holika for Holi.


In the state West Bengal, Holi has two different names, Basant Ustav or Dol Purnima.


Culture Grams. “Republic of India”. Culture Grams Worlk Edition. 2013


Tara Alexander. “Two Myths Behind the Indians Celebrate Holi” Mango Salute. 27 March 2013 <http://www.mangosalute.com/salutetheday/two-myths-behind-the-indians-celebrate-the-festival-of-colors>

HindiLearner News. “Fun Facts about Holi.” HindiLearner News. 25 March 2008 <http://hindilearner.com/wordpress/fun-facts-about-holi-the-festival-of-colors.html>