There is a festival for almost every occasion in the Indian Calendar, with Rangwali Holi also known as The Festival of Colours, being one of the many festivals. The date will vary each year however you can be sure it falls during March or at times late February. Despite being a Hindu tradition, Holi is a festival that is celebrated by many across the globe. The festival is a fun and joyous occasion full of vibrant colours.
This Hindu Festival is celebrated across India over two days known as Holika Dahan, which is celebrated the night before and Rangwali Holi. Holika Dahan holds a spiritual significance to the Hindus who will do religious rituals around a bonfire praying for their internal evil to be destroyed. Rangwali Holi is celebrated by many faiths as it is a day for enjoyment and spending time with family and friends. It signifies the arrival of Spring and the end of Winter with the many vibrant colours. The significance varies depending on which region of India you are celebrating Holi in.
Holi celebrations commence the morning after the Holika bonfire, it is a day purely for fun and enjoyment. People arm themselves with coloured dry powders, pichkaris or water bombs filled with coloured water or any other means to colour their targets. The aim is to saturate one another in as much colour as possible.
Traditionally holi powders known as gulal, were made from washable natural plant derived colours such as tumeric, neem, dhak and kumkum, however commercial pigments are increasingly used. Holi powders come in every colour possible which gives Holi the name The Festival Of Colours. The significance behind the playful throwing of colours was traditionally to prevent catching viruses as the powders where made from natural herbs and plants that held antiseptic properties. Particularly since the change of weather from Winter to Spring is believed to cause viral fever and colds.
Holi Powder Known As 'Gulal'
Mostly older children and young adults participate in Holi however anyone who is out in public is fair game. So if you don't wish to participate it is best to lock your front gate and stay at home. Although this won't stop your friends and family from drenching you in colours. Celebrations will vary depending on the region of India. It is common for bahng lassi to be consumed during Holi celebrations. Bhang is known as marijuana and it is usually consumed in lassi which is a milk and yoghurt beverage.
There are even government approved retailers in Southern India who sell bhang lassi. It is a very potent marijuana and if you are trying this for the first time it is best to ask for a mild bhang lassi. Although it is okay to consume bhang lassi it is best to not advertise the fact you are drinking it. Also given it is such a potent drink you are best to be in a safe environment in the event that you do pass out. For more tips read Hippie In Heels article - 15 Tips For Drinking Bhang Lassi In India.
Crowds Celebrating Holi
Whilst Holi is known as a fun and joyous occasion there is a darker side to Holi. If you follow my diaries you will know that as a western woman in India strange men sexualise me. This is all thanks to the depiction of women in Hollywood films. Holi has increasingly become a day for men to be inebriated and victimise women. They want these women to remember who they played Holi with. There have been several accounts of women who have been victimised as you can read in this article Holi Or Mass Molestation? The Dark Side Of Lath Maar Holi That No One Talks About.
Crowds of men will specifically target a women's breasts with their pichkaris drenching them with coloured water. Then before she realises they will grope or touch her in a sexual manner. These men not only target women by emotionally scarring them, some men will intentionally mix shira with their holi powder. Shira is finely cut glass and when in contact with the skin will burn the skin leaving blisters. These malicious acts aren't as prevalent in Punjab however in South India where Holi is celebrated with much enthusiasm, attracting crowds of people from across India, such malicious acts are common.
Crowds Of Locals & Tourists Alike Celebrating Holi
I celebrated Holi with my friends and family at our residence just to be on the safe side. Particularly since men already sexualise me on any other given day, during Holi I would be fair game. Coloured powders usually go on sale a few days before Rangwali Holi in Punjab. Almost every stall holder at the market will sell gulal with an array of colours to choose from. During the day you will see men coupled on motorbikes chasing after one another with colours. Usually there will be ten or more motorbikes in the chase honking and laughing whilst trying to escape one another. Others will be wandering the streets visiting their neighbours and surprise attacking them with colours. Men don't play fairly so if you don't want to be saturated in colours lock your front gate.
Celebrating Holi With My Husband
As a female tourist it is always best to play it safe and celebrate with a large crowd of people you know. However the safest way to celebrate is to have your own private party with friends and family as I did. If you do hold a private celebration always use natural powders rather than synthetic powders as some can cause horrible skin reactions. Also be sure to buy them from a trusted retailer as you don't want to end up buying gulal with shira. Or to have a coloured face for weeks, as some use powerful colouring agents.
All in all Holi is a great excuse to be a big kid again and have some fun.
Have You Celebrated Holi In India Before? What Was Your Experience Like?