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A guide to India’s colourful Holi festival

Published September 13th, 2013

Undoubtedly the world’s most colourful event, Holi is a spring festival celebrated primarily in India and Nepal (although similar celebrations now take place in Europe, South Africa and the US). If you’ve always dreamed of joining in on the hyper-coloured celebrations and experiencing India at a time of celebration Holi is your perfect chance and now is the best time to start booking your flights and accommodation. Here is everything you need to know about the beautiful festival.

 

 

What is it about: While the festival is mainly a celebration of spring, its meaning also stems from Hindu religion and is based on a story about a demon king named Hiranyakashyap ,his son named Prahlad and his daughter named Holika.  As legend has it, Hiranyakashyap wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship only him, but his son Prahlad refused to, and become a devotee to Hindu god Lord Narayana. As a way of punishing his son, Hiranyakashyap asked his daughter Holika, who was able to enter fire unscathed, to coax Prahlad to sit in her lap where she sat down in a blazing fire.  When they entered the fire though, Lord Narayana blessed Prahlad for his extreme devotion, leaving him unscathed. As a result, the name Holi is derived from Holika and is also seen as festival of good triumphing over evil.

 

When to go: While Holi Festival takes place every spring, the actual date for the celebration changes each year with the full moon. For 2014 the full moon will fall on March 16 with the festivities taking place the day after on the 17th. Celebrations usually take place over 3 to 7 days.

 

Where to go: Holi festival is celebrated all throughout India, although some places put on a more spectacular and colourful show than others. Some of the more popular places to experience the festival include Mathura (where Lord Krishna was born), Jaipur (which features elephant parades) and of course Delhi, which hosts the Holi Cow Festival.

 

What to expect: Lots of screaming, laughing, dancing, water throwing and colour explosions. Things will get crazy and very, very colourful

 

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What to wear: As a day where you’re set to get down, dirty and hyper-coloured, don’t wear anything you won’t mind throwing in the bin at the end of the day. Not even the strongest Napisan will be able to get out those colourful stains.

 

How to prepare:  Much like your clothes, your skin is set to be stained as well. Unless you don’t mind sporting a hot pink and yellow face weeks after the festival, it’s best to cover your skin in oil before you join the colour throwing madness. Covering your skin in oil, like almond oil for example, acts as a barrier between your skin and the powder, helping to prevent staining.

 

How to get the most out of it: This festival is one that is best experienced in a group with family and friends. If you’re heading to the celebration alone, it is recommended you join a group of fellow travellers or consider a home stay with an Indian family. Not only is it much safer to go with a group, but it’s also much more fun.

 

What to be careful of: Besides general safety in India, be careful of going overboard with drinking bhang lassi. The sweet tasting beverage is a mixture of milk, sugar, spices and degraded cannabis, and is incredibly popular during Holi. Don’t let the sweet taste of this local beverage fool you though – it is incredibly strong and intoxicating. If you’re keen to try it, just take a few sips and get back to dancing. This isn’t a drink you want to mess with in a country where you don’t want to be hungover.

 

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.