Greaves Tours wishes you Happy Holi with this breakdown of the holiday's history:
There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is celebrated. The word "Holi" originates from "Holika", the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika - Prahlada's evil aunt - tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Lord Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after the Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.
Holi is a perfectly fitting celebration of the end of winter. A religious celebration of the triumph of good over evil, Holi ranks among the most playful and joyful of India's holidays. The evening before, families light traditional bonfires, while on the day of Holi itself, powders and water in every hue of the rainbow are flung into the air with abandon - if you're not covered in a myriad of colours by day's end, you haven't done your part.
Though Holi is a popular festival across India, most of the biggest annual celebrations are concentrated in the north of the country. Delhi and surrounding towns have riotous street celebrations, while many towns in Rajasthan will host royally sanctioned affairs. People wear old clothes and dive into the spectacle. Visitors looking to take part should time their visits to the end of the month (Holi will be held on March 23rd, 2016).
Have to see Holi for yourself next year? Start planning your India vacation with one of our travel specialists.