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Everything You Need to Know About the Holi Festival of Colors

You’ve probably seen pictures of the colorful celebrations of the Holi Festival in India and wondered, what is going on there? Well, as much fun as this event looks, it also holds a lot of meaning that’s deeply rooted in Hindu beliefs and tradition. The Holi Festival of Colors is not one to miss, but before you start celebrating it’s important to take some time to understand what it’s all about. To help, we’ve put together a brief guide on everything you need to know about the Holi Festival in India and beyond.

What is the Holi Festival?

The Holi Festival is a cultural and religious event that’s been celebrated by Hindus since the 4th century CE. It originated as a way for married women to help spread peace, prosperity, and goodwill amongst their new family. Over time, the theme has evolved and is now seen as a way to illustrate the power of good over evil and unity amongst all.

This idea of good versus evil in Hinduism dates back to the story of Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu was a king in ancient times who demanded that he be worshiped as a god. He claimed to be immortal and just as powerful and impactful as the deities. Yet his son, Prahlad, was more devoted to worshiping Vishnu—the god of Preservation who is said to provide salvation for humanity. This angered Hiranyakashipu, who devised a plan to kill his son in retaliation, but he was not a true god. It is said that because of his selfishness and arrogance, Vishnu (good) appeared during the assassination attempt of Vishnu and killed Hiranyakashipu (evil). Thus, good prevailed and overcame evil.

Another story that’s deeply rooted within the origins of the Holi Festival of colors is that of Radha and Kirshna. Krishna is seen as the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, and is one of the most widely revered of all Indian divinities. In fact, many view Krishna as the supreme god. In appearance, Krishna is said to have blue skin caused by a poisonous drink that he consumed during infancy. When he met Radha—the goddess of love, compassion, and devotion—he fell in love.

However, Krishna feared that Radha wouldn’t love him because of the color of his skin. Radha professed her love for Krishna and allowed him to dye her skin to match. So, some view the Holi Festival of colors as a way to honor this relationship.

To support both of these origin stories, one of the biggest themes of the Holi Festival is unity. This means that everyone—regardless of religious or cultural beliefs—is welcome to join in the celebrations. Although the Holi festival in India is the most well-known, there are also several places around the world that partake in the fun during this time. It is also celebrated regularly in Nepal, and many global cities have begun traditions of their own to support the growing Hindu populations and the underlying meaning behind this festival.

Holi Festival

Why is the Holi Festival Celebrated?

The Holi Festival of colors is celebrated to welcome the spring season, but it also acts as a time for new beginnings and a way to honor the Hindu deities, like Vishnu and Radha. The timing of the Holi Festival corresponds with the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna, which is typically in March. This year, in 2023, the Holi Festival will begin with the bonfire on Tuesday, March 7th and the Festival of Colors is celebrated on Wednesday, March 8th. If you want to do more than participate in the celebration, download Tandem today and match with a native Sanskrit speaker today. It’s a great way to emerge yourself in the culture and make new friends along the way.

Why is Holi Called the Festival of Colors?

The Festival of Holi is also referred to as the Festival of Colors because all throughout the celebrations, colorful powdered dye is thrown into the air. This results in the streets, and everyone participating in the festival, to be drenched in vibrant colors from head to toe. During the Festival of Holi, the colors thrown into the air represent the release of an individual’s inhibitions. This allows them to move forward and start the new season with a fresh slate. The degree of coverage helps every individual feel united to one another, as one very large, very colorful group.

Each of the colors tend to have different meanings, as they’re deeply rooted in religious beliefs. For example, red signifies love and fertility, green signifies new beginnings, blue represents the Hindu god Krishna, and yellow represents turmeric, which is seen as a powerful natural remedy throughout India. Yellow also represents happiness and peace. Pink is seen as a representation of good health or playfulness, while orange is used to represent courage and sacrifice. White and black are not used during this celebration, as white tends to be used during funerals so it doesn’t align with the festival’s overall themes and symbolism.

What to Do During the Holi Festival?

The Holi Festival is well known around the world for its vibrant colors, dancing, and partying in the streets. It’s believed that during this celebration, the gods turn a blind eye, allowing even the most devout Hindus to let loose and have a little fun. Therefore, if you’re planning to attend the Holi Festival in India, you can expect most of the cultural norms of the Hindu traditions to be momentarily ignored.

The festival lasts for two days and is initiated by lighting a large bonfire. This fire acts as a symbol to burn away all of the bad that occurred in the previous year and to prepare individuals and families for the opportunity of a colorful and optimistic future. Once the bonfire is lit, many people will throw in wood, twigs, or dried leaves to signify the burning of their demons.

On the following day, the day of Holi, people throw colored dye into the air for the remainder of the festival. This is what results in the famous pictures depicting the Holi Festival of colors, where participants are covered from head to toe in bright colors of various shades. As mentioned, each of the colors represents something different. Once you’ve had your fill at the festival, washing off the dye acts as the last symbolic behavior—the cleansing of past sins or evil doings.

Whether you’re able to participate in the Festival of Holi in person or not, you can still give your friends in the Hindu community Holi wishes or messages. To help you do so, Tandem has you covered. Our unique language learning app works to connect millions of people across the world to each other, where they can unite and teach each other their native tongue. With intuitive messaging and language tools, Tandem is a great way to practice your target languages together. To get started and join our welcoming community, download Tandem today and match with a speaker in your target language.

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