On the day after the full moon in March every year, India is blanketed with vibrant, colorful powder. Marking the end of winter, the Holi festival, also known as the Festival of Colors, is an ancient Hindu tradition dating back many centuries that celebrates the victory of good over evil and that marks the beginning of spring.
Holi commences on the evening of the full moon with Holika, an event where people gather around a bonfire to perform Hindu rituals and pray together. Everyone contributes to lighting of the fire, and when it has burned out, they consume barely seeds from a pot kept underneath it. Some make predictions about the upcoming harvest based on the condition of the seeds and the direction of the bonfire flames.
The main celebration, Rangwali Holi, begins the next morning when neon-colored powder called Gulal is thrown into the air and smeared onto the bodies of those attending the festival. An endless supply of Gulal is sold in street stands so festival-goers can play all day long. Some celebrations also include fun water gun and water balloon fights, parades, singers, dancers, and musicians. Customary Holi food and drinks are also consumed, including an intoxicating cannabis-based drink called Bhang.
While some cities have more extravagant celebrations than others, Holi is celebrated across the entire country of India. The typical conservative social norms of the country are pushed aside for the Holi festival, when rowdy behavior is acceptable and even encouraged. For many Hindus, the Holi festival is a religious tradition that holds great meaning, while others do not associate the Festival of Colors with religion at all. For everyone, the Holi celebration is an opportunity for people of all walks of life to spend time with their loved ones, to let loose and enjoy themselves, and to bring communities together.