This week, Hindu communities around the world are celebrating one of the most important events in their cultural calendar. Holi, also known as the ‘Festival of Colours’ is being celebrated around the world, from the Indian subcontinent where it originated to Australia, Europe and the Americas.
Whether you’re planning a trek in Nepal or heading out on our India Himalayan Adventure, Holi is an important part of the local culture. Keep reading to find out more about what Holi means, and how it is celebrated in different parts of the world.
What is Holi?
Holi is an ancient Hindu celebration, which is also referred to as the ‘Festival of Spring’, ‘Festival of Colours’ and ‘Festival of Love’. The festival symbolises a triumph of good over evil in the honour of Hindu god Vishnu. It is held every spring, on the last full moon day of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month.
The celebrations begin the night before Holy in a ceremony knows as Holika Dahan – or ‘Little Holi’. On this evening, families light bonfires, sing and dance. The next day is sometimes called ‘Rangwali Holi’. People gather on the streets to smear and spray coloured powders on one another in a playful party that often lasts for days. There will often be groups playing music, singing and dancing, and people also share cultural delicacies.
Once the rainbow party has ended, everyone will put on clean clothes and spend time with their families.
How is Holi celebrated around the world?
One thing that all Holi celebrations have in common is colour. Whether you find yourself participating in a Holi festival in India or Berlin, you are likely to find people covering each other in coloured paints and powders, all with a big smile on their faces.
However, in each culture, some variations have developed in how the event is celebrated. Here are a few examples of how Holi is celebrated in the countries we visit on our Bucket List adventures.
Holi celebrations in India
In India, you will find some of the most traditional celebrations of Holi – but also some of the most extensive festivals, including students, travellers, professionals and everyone in between.
Often in India, Holika Dahan is celebrated with the burning of pyres made up of firewood that has been collected over the days leading up to the festival. Many families will place an effigy of Holika,
On the main day of Holi, people will meet in public places and cover one another in gulal, a colourful powder. Each colour has a different symbolism – yellow represents knowledge, blue represents determination, green symbolises happiness and red signifies sensuality. Participants often also drench each other in water, dance to live street music, drink intoxicating beverages and eat delicious food.
Holi celebrations in Nepal
In Nepal, Holi is celebrated in many similar ways to India. People will throw colourful powder and water balloons called ‘lolas’ at each other in a festival that often lasts the whole week.
On the first day of Holi in Nepal, a ceremonial bamboo pole called a ‘chir’ is erected. Strips of clothing are tied to the pole as good luck charms, and it is left up until the end of the festivities where it is added to a bonfire.
Holi celebrations closer to home
In the UK, you will find many Holi celebrations in cities and particularly in areas with large international populations, such as universities. Groups of friends will often meet at street parties to throw paint powder and enjoy live DJ sets, dancing and general revelry before eating South Asian cuisine. Many Hindu families will also meet for their own personal gatherings to mark the festival.
Unique Holi celebrations in different countries
Of course, the Hindu diaspora is today spread all over the world, so you will find Holi celebrations in almost every country. Here are a few unique features of different Holi festivals around the world:
- In Pakistan, there is a smaller Hindu community than in India and Nepal, but Holi is still celebrated, mostly in temples. Before the festival, people will clean their houses and cook delicacies such as papri, gujiyas and dahi badas, before meeting with friends for the colourful party.
- In Trinidad and Tobago, Hindus fuse their cultural heritage with the Caribbean influence of carnival in a celebration featuring a special type of folk song called ‘Chowtal’. This is sung throughout the festival, and accompanied by the ‘dholak’ drum and ‘majeera’ cymbals.
- In Guyana, Holi begins a month ahead of time, as Hindus plant castor oil plants ready to burn a month later in the image of Holika. During the festivities, children use colourful water jets called ‘pichkaris’ to soak passers-by.
- In Canada in 2017, members of parliament joined in the Holi celebrations for the first time!
- In Singapore, Holi is celebrated in a very extravagant fashion. Dance parties, DJs and colour throwing are often accompanied by water showers where people rain dance and even showers of vodka and champagne!
If learning about Holi has got you in the mood to experience more cultural festivals around the world, why not take a look at our adventure travel destinations? Alternatively, give us a call on 01769 309 007 to find out more!