Ostensibly a springtime harvest festival weaved in with various Hindu myths, Holi is celebrated on the first day of the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which usually falls around February or March annually. Depending on where you are, the party can last from four days to an entire week in northern parts of India. Events vary from state to state too – in Uttar Pradesh there’s a mock battle of the sexes; in Jaipur, locals decorate elephants in intricate designs for the Elephant Festival during Holi; while in Goa, the local version of Holi is Shigmo, which involves drumming and processions of massive effigies through the streets.
The significance of colour at Holi is attributed to a myth about the Hindu god Krishna, who as a child coveted his partner Radha’s fair complexion. Krishna’s mother suggested he change Radha’s facial skin colour to his liking and thus a tradition was born. Now, Holi is synonymous with coloured powders and coloured water sprayed from water guns that are thrown at strangers, family and friends with abandon. There’s no restrictions and the use of bhang (an intoxicating substance derived from cannabis leaves used in food and drink at Holi) means the festival is an uninhibited display of fun.
When is it?
Tips and tricks
The biggest Holi party is in Mathura in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, however major cities like Mumbai and Delhi also host colourful celebrations.
To make the most of your time at Holi, consider booking a tour with local guides, accommodation, meals, transport and sightseeing all included.
Buy your coloured powders from markets but look for naturally derived plant dyes that are not harmful to people or the environment.
Each colour has a different meaning: red = purity, green = vitality, blue = serenity and yellow = piety.
Wear white to make the colours stand out, but don’t wear anything you don’t mind getting ruined!
Holi may be a time for inhibition, but use your common sense and stay close to your group to avoid getting lost in the huge crowds.