As a kid, I loved looking at the colorful piles of powdered color in the markets days before the arrival of Holi. Buying colors for playing Holi and for creating Rangoli (colourful designs with powdered color on floor) made me happy.
Putting colours on each others’ cheeks and forehead, exchange of greetings and sweets, visiting family, friends, was so much fun.
Growing up, I lost interest in Holi when I noticed people forcibly putting colors on others, teasing girls and raising a ruckus in the name of Holi.
Last year, I celebrated Holi after a very long time. I was volunteering in a village school at that time. A day before Holi, students and teachers celebrated Holi by playing with colors and dancing in the school after class. Colorful, happy faces of children was such a beautiful sight.
It rekindled my love for this festival of colors and happiness.
Friendship, forgiveness, love, joy and equality is the essence of this festival which is often ignored by many people having their share of fun at the cost of others’ safety and respect.
This guide on holi in India will tell you-
In this Blog post I have covered the following:
- What is Holi?
- When and why is Holi celebrated?
- Popular places to celebrate Holi in India
- What to wear for Holi in India?
- Safeguard your hair from Holi colors
- Protect your skin and eyes while playing Holi
- Keep your valuables safe while playing Holi
- Suitable footwear for Holi
- Women harassment on Holi
- Feasting on Holi
What is Holi?
Holi is one of the most popular Hindu festivals of India that is widely celebrated throughout the country. People put colour on each other and visit friends and relatives.
The festival transcends the boundaries of region, religion, caste, creed etc and is celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm among all. Everyone appears happy and cheerful.
When and why is Holi celebrated?
Holi falls on Purnima (full moon) of Phalgun month of the Hindu calendar. This festival marks the arrival of Spring season. In 2020, Holika Dahan is falling on March 9th and Holi on March 10th.
There is a popular legend behind Holi festival. King Harinkashyapu had a son named Prahlad. Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Harinkashyapu was an arrogant and proud King who could not accept his son praising Lord Vishnu and considering him the supreme.
Harinkashyapu tried to kill his own son. He asked his sister Holika to sit in fire with Prahlad in her lap.
But the blessing that Holika had that fire could not burn her, failed and she was burnt in the same fire that they had conspired to kill Prahlad with.
Holi is mainly celebrated for two days, though it may last for a longer period at many places in India. The day before Holi, Holi eve is celebrated as Holika Dhahan or Dhulendi.
A pyre is made of wood and it is believed that this fire burns away all the vices and evil. It is also a symbol of victory of good over evil.
When is Holi in 2020, 2021 & 2022
On Holika Dahan, a pyre is made of wood and it is believed that this fire burns away all the vices and evil.
Holi 2020 details:
- 9th March : Holika Dahan (bonfire) Muhurta (time) – 18:22 to 20:49
- 10th March: Rangwali Holi (Holi with colours)
Holi 2021 details:
- 28th March: Holika Dahan (bonfire) Muhurta (time) – 18:32 to 20:54
- 29th March: Rangwali Holi (Holi with colours)
Holi 2022 details:
- 17th March: Holika Dahan (bonfire) Muhurta (time) – 21:03 to 22:13
- 18th March: Rangwali Holi (Holi with colours)
Popular places to celebrate Holi in India
The name Holi perhaps is a corruption of the word ‘Dol’ as the full moon is called Dol Poornima, referring to the swing which Krishna swings from as he plays with colour and water with friends.
For Holi is very much a Krishna festival, a festival of love and mischief, as he flirts and banters with milkmaids.
This is most evident in Mathura and Vrindavan, and during the Lat-maar festival when women of the region strike men with sticks (Source).
Here is a list of other places in India you can head to celebrate (or witness) Holi.
Holi in Braj
(Mathura-Vrindavan-Barsana) Braj is one of the most famous places for Holi celebration. There are many references and popular stories about Lord Krishna and Holi. Krishna used to celebrate Holi with his friends and Gopis in Vrindavan.
He was born in Mathura and spent his childhood and youth in Vrindavan. Barsana is the name of the place which Radha, his beloved, belonged to.
‘Lathmaar Holi’ of Barsana is very famous in which women playfully beat men with sticks and men try to dodge while throwing colors at each other.
Devotees of Lord Krishna visit Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan to celebrate holi with their beloved Krishna. For the devotees of Krishna, he is a lot more than God. He is a friend, confidant and a companion.
Colors, water and flowers are sprayed on the devotees in the temple and they dance merrily to the songs and bhajans of Lord Krishna.
I am sharing 25 of my favorite Bollywood Krishna songs which are a blend of love and devotion, innocence and virtue, as also mischief and plain dhamaal! Top 25 Krishna Janmashtami songs & Bhajans from Bollywood.
Holi in Varanasi (Banaras)
One of the oldest cities of India, Banaras is a very popular place among travelers from India and abroad for Holi celebrations. Along with people, the streets, houses, ghats, vehicles, all get rainbow colours.
What is that attracts Non Indians to India and specially Varanasi? Spiritual Quest? Curiosity about the sadhus? Or the Intoxicating Bhang?
Read Everything you need to know about Exotic, Medicinal & Intoxicating Bhang, whether it is legal in India, where to buy, tips on drinking bhang, bhang recipe, bhang lassi, bhang thandai, benefits of bhang, side effects of bhang and even Bollywood songs on Bhang: Bhang on! An Awesome Guide on having Bhang in India.
Holi in Pushkar
Pushkar is a small laid back town of Rajasthan that has a lot of temples and the famous Brahma temple. If you are travelling solo, Pushkar can be a good place for you. Though during Holi festival it does get crowded here.
Alcohol is prohibited inside Pushkar so you can expect sober people around you.
Temples, Camels, Cattle & Scams: Know what to do, where to stay, what to avoid in Pushkar (twin city of Ajmer) in this detailed guide: Essential Guide to India’s surreal Pushkar.
Holi in Delhi
Delhi, being the capital city of India, receives many tourists at the time of this festival who visit specially to participate and experience this colorful festival.
Many events are organised by various organisations.
Most of the travelers hostels also organise exclusive Holi events for their guests or take them to some being held in the locality.
Click to read how to reach from Delhi to Agra by road, air & list of best trains, travel tips for Taj mahal, Top Places to Visit beyond the Taj Mahal: Best way to travel from Delhi to Agra: Road, Rail or Air.
Holi in Jaipur
Jaipur is the hub or main connecting city for people traveling to various places in Rajasthan. The whole pink city gets colored in red, yellow, green, blue and all various shades.
Markets are flooded with colors and pitchkaris (water guns). There is a huge variety of lip-smacking delicacies you can feast upon in Jaipur on the occasion of Holi.
A curated list of places you should not miss to visit when in the magnificent, colourful Pink city of India, Jaipur in Rajasthan: 15 iconic attractions and places to visit in Jaipur.
What to wear for Holi in India?
Though Holi is a very colorful and happy festival but you may find some antisocial elements around in India who may spoil the fun. So it is better to be careful and take some precautions.
Dressing up suitably is one of the most important things to consider. Be considerate about the local culture and dress modestly in clothes that cover your arms, legs, cleavage, stomach.
A tunic with leggings or pants or the traditional Indian Salwar Kameez is an appropriate option. People love wearing white so that when they play Holi, the colors stand out prominently.
But you should be careful with your choice of clothes as whatever you wear would probably won’t remain wearable after that.
Secondly, your white dress might become translucent when you get drenched in water.
Better wear something in solid color and thick material underneath if you want to wear white. Cover yourself as much as you can. Basically just keep your face, hands and feet uncovered.
It not only makes it easy for you to mix in but also protects your skin from colors and chemicals that colors may contain. Also, you are protected from the sun.
I like dressing up in ethnic Indian outfits or experiment with Indo-western dresses. A long skirt with a top or t-shirt is good to go with the festive vibes.
Safeguard your hair from Holi colors
Cover your head with bandana or scarf to protect your hair for colored powder and water. You can also put oil in your hair which would make cleansing your hair easier after Holi celebrations.
Many times the colors used to play Holi don’t wash off easily and you are stuck with various shades in your hair for longer than you want.
I like to paint my nails to keep them safe from staining. Also, unpainted nails look very untidy when colour gets stuck in them.
Our skin absorbs a lot of the things that we put on it so it better be only natural ingredients that are good enough to be consumed by the body or do no harm even when absorbed in. Here are 8 Ayurvedic beauty brands you should know about.
Protect your skin and eyes while playing Holi
Put some moisturizer on your exposed body parts. That would make removing the color easy. Wear minimal makeup and use sunscreen.
The powder color may cause harm if gets inside your eyes.
Wearing sunglasses would keep your eyes protected from the sun, color powder and water.
Don’t go out wearing expensive sunglasses. They may get damaged or even lost. If you don’t have cheaper ones, just buy one for Holi.
You can get these as cheap as for INR 100-200.
Watch out as burst of colour, water, water balloons can come from anywhere. When someone is putting colour or water on your face, keep your mouth and eyes shut.
Gentle exfoliation with mixture of gram flour with milk (for normal skin) or milk cream (for dry skin) can help remove colour stains from skin. I have heard many girls use this method to get color off from the face and it works well.
Keep your valuables safe while playing Holi
Before heading out for Holi celebrations, remove and keep safe any expensive piece of jewelry you are wearing.
Don’t carry any expensive stuff with you like your watch, accessories, cameras that may get damaged with powder color or water. If you have to take your camera, use a waterproof GoPro or a selfie stick. Protect your camera as much as you can.
If you are carrying money, keep it in a small ziplock plastic bag. I carry as little stuff as possible when playing with colors. You have to have your hands free to play, after all!
Suitable footwear for Holi
Keep in mind that you would most probably be drenched in colorful water and it’s no fun walking with wet shoes. So, flip-flops or inexpensive sandals are my favourites for Holi as they are comfortable and won’t get spoiled much.
Even if they do, it’s not much of a waste.
Women harassment on Holi
You can choose to play Holi with the crowds celebrating in the streets, neighborhood etc or celebrate at an exclusive event. You can ask your host or the staff at the place of your stay regarding Holi events there.
Going out and mingling with the crowd and local people does sound fun but many females experience harassment at such gatherings.
Using Holi as an excuse, women are often touched in an inappropriate manner. It is advisable to venture out with a group of friends or people you know.
Many travelers’ hostels, hotels and guesthouses organise Holi celebrations for their guests which makes the whole experience better, safe and enriching.
If you face anything that invades your privacy or any sort of harassment, don’t hesitate to retaliate.
Push or yell or do both, complain and create a scene. That is the only way to let such people know that it is not acceptable at all. I like playing with colors and whenever I do, it is with my family and friends.
I personally find it safer to enjoy this festival with people I know or feel safe around.
Once, on Holi festival, I was returning from visiting a relative in a hospital and was not in a good mood. Some boys passed by, threw color on me and my friend, shouted something about Holi and sped away.
This is what I don’t like about this festival but then it’s not the festival at fault. It’s the people who take advantage of it.
If you find any group of drunk young boys or men howling and shouting approaching towards you or asking to put colour on you, better stay away and move.
It’s not that all people trying to put color on you, have wrong intentions. Some of them may genuinely just want to play Holi but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here’s my exhaustive travel guide On Varanasi (Banaras or Kashi). Read about the beautiful temples and ghats, the interesting bhang and chaat, the offbeat Akhadas and Sanskrit schools of Varanasi: 11 Awesome things you should not miss to Experience in Varanasi, India.
Feasting on Holi
No Indian festival is complete without a huge variety of lip-smacking delicacies. Sweets, snacks and drinks like Gujia, Jalebi, Laddoo, Chaat, Kachori, Pakore, Bhang, Lassi, Chhaas, and a lot of other such stuff is sure to make your mouth water. Gujia (deep fried patties with sweet filling) is my favourite Holi snack.
I used to cook these at home with mom and the whole house got filled with flavourful fragrances of home-cooked snacks and sweets.
Don’t miss these to have a wholesome Holi experience. Bhang is actually Cannabis which is used specially for preparing beverages and snacks on Holi. It can get you high.
Be careful with consuming it.
I haven’t ever tried it as I have heard that people often forget things they do under its effect. I like to remember the fun I have had.
Busy Now? Read Later – PIN IT!
Holi is such a colorful and beautiful festival that you shouldn’t let a few negative people or things stop you from experiencing the fun. Hope these tips would help you stay safe and enjoy a memorable Holi.