Holi is one of the main Hindu festivals, and is celebrated on the last day of Falgun month which marks the end of winter season in India.
Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemoration of a legend from Hindu mythology.
The preparations start a month in advance, while the actual celebration is spread over three days for three seperate events - Holika Dahan, Holi, and Parrewa.
Holika Dahan is based on a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story is of an arrogant king who resents his son Prahlada worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlada emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holika Dahan commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.
Please see our HindiLearner site blog entries for more details about how to celebrate Holi festival.
Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.
Holi is an excuse for Indians to shed inhibitions and caste differences for a day of spring fever and big fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and making mischief in the streets; while adults extend the hand of peace, and everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder (gulal) and water over each other.
Marijuana-based bhang and thandai add to the uninhibited atmosphere. Gujjia, papri and kanji vade are special food items that are exclusively made for this festival.
Although Holi is quite popular and celebrated all over India, it's celebrated with special joy and zest at Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, and Barsnaa. These towns are associated with the immortal love of divine Krishna and Radha.