Photos of smiling tourists and locals covered head to toe in colored powder are now a universal image of travel and tourism in India, and are the heart of the joyous Indian festival called Holi. In the tradition of many Asian festivals, the Holi celebration draws on elements of astrological rituals, religious traditions, and unique cultural characteristics.
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the story of immortal Hiranyakashipu and his son, Prahlada who became enemies after the son devoted himself to Vishnu instead of his father. After surviving several attempts on his life, Prahlada was tricked into sitting in a fire along with his scheming aunt Holika, who had a fireproof cape. To everyone’s surprise, Holika was burned and Prahlada survived the inferno just fine, proving he had made the right choice.
This year Holi is celebrated on March 17, and continues for a few days afterward. Different locations around the country celebrate the holiday in different ways, but there are several common themes that visitors can see everywhere. Of course, there is the dancing, music, food and general merrymaking that grips everyone from young children to teenagers, parents and seniors. One can also see large bonfires, called holika, set around town in memory of Prahlada’s miraculous escape. Human pyramids are formed in an attempt to break a pot of buttermilk suspended high above the street, and visitors shouldn’t be startled by women beating men with rolled-up saris or sticks – it’s all part of the fun.
The most visual and beautiful part of the celebration is when participants throw great handfuls of colored powder at each other in a boisterous celebration of the festivities. Rich purple, blazing orange, ruby red, sparkling blue and a thousand colors in between are flung into the air and over crowds resulting in an intense rainbow of colors covering every inch of the celebrating masses. It makes for some great photos – but make sure the camera is Holi-proofed!
Like many things in India, Holi truly has to be seen to be believed. It’s a celebration of life and culture where everyone plays a part, and visitors are warmly welcomed. If a visit to India is on the calendar in late March, the Agoda.com hotels on our list are located in a variety of cities with large Holi celebrations will ensure a spot right in the middle of the action. Click here to see the hotels at Agoda.com’s press center.