Christchurch’s annual Indian Holi Festival of Colours will brighten up Hagley Park for the seventh time this weekend and bring an important message of unity to Canterbury.

Held to foster togetherness in India, event organisers Hitesh Sharma and Sandeep Khanna believe that Holi is more important for the city now than ever before, due to the events of March 15 in 2019.

“Holi is traditionally focused on creating unity. The colours symbolise that no matter your skin colour, religion, background or social status, we are all one. We need events like Holi in our city to continue to show strong support for all of the people that call Christchurch home. This year we are promoting the need for kotahitanga – togetherness and solidarity as Cantabrians,” Sharma says.

Hitesh and Sandeep aim to continue building community understanding through showcasing traditional cultural performances, food, games and stories.

A Bollywood-style dance has been created by Revathi Performing Arts to represent one of Holi’s origin stories: the legend of Krishna who had dark skin and painted fair-skinned Radha to show that they were one and the same.

Chenda rhythm drumming will also be a highlight on the stage, performed by the ‘Rhythm of Kerala’ group. Traditionally only seen in temples, Holi will be a rare chance for Cantabrians to witness this drumming, which comes from the Kerala region in India.

The traditional game of Matki Phod will provide a chance for teams from all across Christchurch to build a human pyramid and tip a hanging pot of yogurt – representing one of the legends of Krishna growing up.

Powdered-colours will be thrown throughout the festival and colour cannons will be blasted from the main stage over the crowd. This year’s festival-goers are encouraged to dress all in white for their chance to enter Holi’s ‘most-colourful’ competition on the day.

Cultural delicacies will be available at a variety of food stalls, with music, performances and activities spread throughout the event. It is expected that more than 12,000 people will attend Holi this year.

Holi is wheelchair accessible, family-friendly, and strictly alcohol and drug free. Colours must be purchased at the event for safety reasons. The colours are made from corn flour and are suitable for all ages.

The event is organised completely by volunteers and all-profits are re-invested into future events, and charities in India and Christchurch.

The Christchurch Holi Festival of Colours is on Saturday 29 February in North Hagley Park from 10am-4pm. Entry is free and colours can be purchased at the event.

Cultural background on Holi

The most popular origin stories are that of Holika Dahan, and Krishna and Radha.

Holika Dahan is ‘the lighting of bonfires’, held the evening before the main Holi festivities to symbolise the triumph of good over evil, and prepare for a good harvest season. 

The festivities officially welcome in spring, with Holi celebrated as a festival of love, harmony, happiness and abundance.

The reason colours are thrown stems from a legend about Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. Krishna had blue skin and wanted to be fair like Radha, so his mother suggested he paint their faces so that they could be the same – symbolising coming together as one.

In India, when the colours are thrown, all differences are put aside and everyone becomes equal, no matter their culture, background, religion or social status.