Holi – Festival of Colour

Holi festival
Holi festival

Holi is probably the most well-known and beloved festival in India among foreigners and many want to participate in the festivities — which involves throwing coloured powder and water at each other. It’s a celebration of spring and usually takes place in March.

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I’ve celebrated Holi successfully three times in India. I say successfully because nothing untoward happened. Twice I was at a private club in South Delhi and once I was at an ashram in Rishikesh. In both cases, the crowd was controlled and I was never in danger of being molested by bhang-drinking male youths.

What you need to know

Like Diwali, and many other festivals, Holi is based on the lunar calendar. It’s celebrated on the full moon in either February or March, so check the date in advance. In 2016, the date is March 23.

Diwali festival
Diwali festival

Holi can be very uncomfortable for women. Please read my blog What you need to know about Holi for tips on how to celebrate safely. The key is to stay off the streets, find a controlled group of people to celebrate with and go easy on the bhang lassi (also known as thandai).

How to celebrate

Finding the right group of people to celebrate Holi with is key. My other tips include covering your skin and hair with oil (such as almond oil) to prevent the colour from staining your skin for a week. And try to use natural, plant-derived and non-synthetic colours if you can find them.

Try to use natural, plant-derived and non-synthetic colours
Try to use natural, plant-derived and non-synthetic colours

Top tip: Lathmar Holi is a unique festival that takes place in Barsana, near Mathura, a few days before Holi. In this tradition, the women beat up men with sticks (laths) before playing Holi with colours.

Where to celebrate

The best place to celebrate Holi is probably Mathura / Vrindavan in North India, the birthplace and childhood home of Krishna. The celebrations here are legendary.

There are also many private celebrations such as the Holy Cow festival in Delhi.


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