Holi is a festival of colour, joy, and happiness, which is celebrated to welcome the spring season. The festival is celebrated on the day of the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna.
One of the most famous Hindu festivals around the world, Holi is fast gaining a cross-cultural acceptance across different cultures of the world.
The celebration starts with the Holika Dehan (bonfire) the night before the actual Holi. People gather to sing and dance around the bonfire and pray for the safety of their family and friends. The process of the bonfire is same across the world. The next day is marked with playing water fights, dunking people in tubs, and chasing each other with dry powder and coloured water.
The celebration is accompanied with songs and dance in a colourful and joyful atmosphere. People also share and enjoy delicious dishes and sweets such as gujia and bhaang (made by mixing the leaves and flower of the cannabis leaves).
After the celebration of the eventful day, people take a bath, wear new clothes, and visit family and friends and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Holi is celebrated in different ways in various parts of the world. Indians living in regions such as Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Suriname celebrate the occasion with great fun and enthusiasm.
In Fiji, Holi is marked with the playful throwing of coloured water and powder and is celebrated by communities of Indo-Fijians and non-Hindus annually. Phagua, as the festival is called in Fiji, is celebrated by spraying colours, singing folk songs, and folk dance, and visiting families and friends—just like in India.
People are in a jolly mood, social distinctions are forgotten, everyone interacts with each other, and people move around with coloured water, singing and dancing. Some also beat drums and sing loudly in a chorus.
The folk songs sung in Fiji during Holi are called faag gayan. During faag gayan, a group of people called mandalis sing chawtaals during the celebration. The mandalis gather once a week to sing chawtaals before the actual day of the festival.
On the day of Holi, the mandalis go from house to house, singing folk songs and playing with colours, while enjoying delicacies and bhaang. Many of the songs sung on the occasion are based on love and relationship of Lord Krishna and Radha Rani.
The legend of Radha and Krishna is closely linked with this tradition of colours. Krishna, who had a dark skin, was jealous of Radha's fair skin. In a mischievous mood, he applied colour on Radha's face. This is another ancient legend, where lovers till date long to paint their beloved as an expression of love.
Moreover, there are so many Holi-inspired Bollywood songs, such as Rang Barse and Holi Khele Raghuveera, which people sing and dance. Delicacies such as bara, gulgula, phulourie, mango or tamarind chutney, potato ball, prasad, channa, kheer (sweet rice), and beverage are prepared and served to the people.
Holi or Phagwah is one of the traditional festivals in Guyana where a public holiday is observed. People of Indian origin celebrate the festival of colours on this day. People traditionally wear white and spray each other with abeer liquid—a red dye—which symbolises the blood of evil King Hiranyakashyap. The king Hiranyakashyap wished to end his son, Prahlad’s, life with his sister, Holika’s help. Holika was blessed by Lord Vishnu that she will never die in the fire. She was ordered by Hiranyakashyap to kill Prahlad by taking him to the fire (pyre). Holika was burnt to death, and Prahlad was unharmed.
Trinidad and Tobago
In Trinidad and Tobago, the festival is also called Phagwa and is said to have started in the 1800s by Indians who migrated as indentured labours. The festival is celebrated with colours, water, song and dance, including singing the folk song, which is called chowtal. Chowtal is accompanied by music played with the dhol and majeera and are usually loud and high-pitched.
This island nation, where Indians form close to 50% of the local ethnicity population, also celebrates Holi with great pomp every year. In Mauritius, Holi signifies the arrival of spring and the victory of Prince Prahlad. Holi is celebrated with gulal (coloured powder) and by spraying each other with water through pichkaris (water guns), which is made from bamboo stalk.
Holi is celebrated with a lot of excitement in Surinam. Here, Hindus constitute about 50% of the population, a majority of which immigrated from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as indentured labourers.
People here also take great delight in playing with colours and singing folk songs and dance.
The festival is similar to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. People plant a castor oil plant weeks before the festival, and later on, this plant is burnt as Holika (bonfire). People engage themselves in singing nightly chawtaal at each other's homes.
Holi in different parts of India
Holi is one of the major festivals of India and celebrated with immense joy and fervour throughout the country. All celebrate Holi with colours, feasts, music, dance, and parties. In India, Holi is known by various names: Lathmaar Holi, Dulandi Holi, Rangpanchami, Basant Utsav, Dol Purnima, Hola Mohalla, Kaman Pandigai, and Phagu Purnima. Even though the festival is celebrated in most parts of the country, the celebrations have a regional influence in their rituals and traditions.
1. Mathura and Vrindavan: People in Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate Holi from the day of Vasant Panchami, which marks the beginning of the celebration of festival colours in the city. Barsana is the famous place where Lord Krishna was born. Here, Holi is celebrated in a unique way called Lathmaar Holi. On the day of Holi, men from Nandgaon come to Barsana to celebrate Holi with women, but they are ready to beat them with sticks instead of playing with colour.
2. Haryana: Here, men from a pyramid (by standing on each other) to break the buttermilk pot hung high up on the local streets.
3. Maharashtra and Gujarat: Here, a grand procession of men, soaked in coloured water, walk through the streets. There is also a tradition of hanging a pot of buttermilk high up in the street.
4. West Bengal: Holi is known as Dol Jatra in West Bengal. People play with spray colour and powder called Abeer. Boys and girls greet the spring not only with colours but also with dance and songs.
5. Orissa: This place is famous for Jagannath temple. Here, the tradition is similar to West Bengal. The major difference is that people put the idols of Jagannath in place of Krishna and Radha.