Holi, the Festival of Colors, 8 Mar 2023

ASIA--PACIFIC, 13 Mar 2023

Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

The 2023 holiday falls on March 8, but in some parts of India communities begin the festivities by lighting bonfires the night before in a celebration known as Holika Dahan, or Choti Holi.

People apply colored powder on each other during Holi celebrations.
Niranjan Shrestha/AP

The Hindu festival of Holi has several reasons for being celebrated in India, especially in the northern parts.

First, it is the end of winter season and beginning of spring in India.  The festival falls on the full moon (Poornima) day. From the point of view of agriculture, people are happy that they have a good harvest of grains, and fruits etc. People would like to enjoy themselves by dancing and colouring each other with flowers or coloured powder that is called — Gulaal in local language.

People throw “gulal,” or colored powder, as part of Holi celebrations in Hyderabad on March 7, 2023.  Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Another reason relates to a wicked lady Hollika. People in northern regions of India especially, would like to put an end to her wickedness. In that sense the festival means victory of good over evil. The night before the main festival Hollika is symbolically destroyed by burning a set of wooden pieces in a corner of a farm or a residential area.

Before setting fire, a local Hindu priest utters a religious mantra while the people watch the ceremony with joy and relief at the symbolic defeat of the wicked woman. After this, some eatables like cake or sweet pudding — halva or Gulab jamun is distributed to the organisers and onlookers of the ceremony.

Photo: Lufthansa City Center TT

Like other festivals, the festival is declared a holiday. Some people have given it a linguistic touch — Holi-day. On this day people visit each others’ homes or meet at a common area like a school building or a temple and put the coloured gulal on each other and sing some small songs wishing each other joy and happiness. The ceremony is enjoyed especially by children  and youngsters. These days foreigners who have come to their Indian friends’ homes also join in the dancing and colouring each other with gulal.

Like other festivals, Holi brings people together and they sing and dance wishing each other a happy and eventful life. Some relate the festival to the refreshing story of Lord Krishna and His beloved Radha.

I am sharing this essay with Antonio, Editor of TMS, and wish him a happy and healthy life.

Devotees smear each other with colors in celebration of Holi in 2023.
AFPGetty Images


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Mar 2023.

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