Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.
The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu. The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season.
When is Holi Celebrated?
The day after the full moon in March each year. In 2016, Holi will be celebrated on March 24. The festival takes place a day earlier in West Bengal and Odisha.
Where is Holi Celebrated?
You'll find Holi festivities taking place in most areas of India. However, they're more exuberant in some places than others. Check out these 10 Places to Celebrate the Holi Festival in India (and one region that should be avoided).
Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest at Mathura, four hours from Delhi. Viator offers two day exclusive Holi festival trips to Mathura from Delhi.
How is Holi Celebrated?
People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations.
See pictures of Holi celebrations in this Holi Festival Photo Gallery.
What Rituals are Performed?
The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of demoness Holika. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion. This is known as Holika Dahan. As well as performing a special puja, people sing and dance around the fire, and walk around it three times.
The burning of Holika is mentioned in the Hindu text, the Narada Purana. Apparently, Holika's brother demon King Hiranyakashyap instructed her to burn his son, Prahlad, because he followed Lord Vishnu and didn't worship him. Holika sat with Prahlad in her lap, in the burning fire, because it was thought that no fire could harm her.