Color Your World: Holi Festival


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Ever wondered why your friends were posting photos on Facebook with themselves covered in colorful power? Holi (होली), also known as the Festival of Colors, is an ancient Hindu religious festival that is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other parts of the world that have significant populations of Hindus or people of Indian origin. Typically falling sometime in March, this holiday signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, and overall, is simply a festive day for celebration. In recent years, the festival has become hugely popular not only amongst non-Hindus in South Asia, but also outside of Asia, including parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors:


The Holi Festival celebrates the Hindu story of Prahlada, a prince who dedicated himself to the worship of Vishnu, a significant deity in Hinduism. His father, Hiranyakashipu, and aunt, Holika, opposed his religious faith and as punishment, made him sit in the middle of a raging bonfire. However, Prahlad's devout prayers to Vishnu protected him and he was left unscathed. The Festival celebrates this triumph of good over evil, with festivities beginning the night before with a Holika bonfire, during which people gather to sing and dance the night away. The most striking part of the Holi celebrations, however, is the free-for-all spraying of brightly-colored powders and water in enormous public gatherings during which participants play, chase, and color each other with pigmented powders and colored water. Some even carry around water guns and water-filled colored balloons!

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Not only do the vivid hues of the powder perfectly reflect the transition from harsh dark winter to warmer springtime, more importantly, they break down the barriers implemented by the nation's caste system, a major form of social stratification. The Holi Festival is a time for Hindus to relax these social codes and come together to celebrate, regardless of age, class, gender, occupation.