A complete guide to Holi - The festival of colors

Hey everyone, gear up for the most vibrant and joyful festival of the year – Holi! It's that time again to dust off your white clothes, stock up on colors, and get ready to be splashed with love (and maybe a little water balloon too!).

But for those new to the scene, or maybe those planning to travel to witness the magic firsthand, here's a quick guide to navigating the glorious chaos of Holi:

What is Holi?

HoliHoli, also known as the Festival of Colors, is an explosion of joy, music, and vibrant hues that marks the triumph of good over evil and the arrival of spring.

Holi is more than just throwing colored powder. It's steeped in ancient traditions, rooted in the story of Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, and his evil aunt Holika. The burning of Holika on the eve of Holi (Holika Dahan) symbolizes the victory of good over evil. The following day, Rangwali Holi, is when the real fun begins!

This is your chance to let loose, shed inhibitions, and create unforgettable memories with friends and family. Imagine streets filled with laughter, the air thick with the scent of spices and sweets, and everyone, from young children to grandparents, dancing and playfully throwing colors at each other.

Read more: 32 historical places in India that every Indian must visit!

When is Holi?

Mark your calendars! Holi falls on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Phalguna, which typically translates to February or March in the Gregorian calendar. The exact date changes every year, so be sure to check online before booking your travel to witness this vibrant festival firsthand.

The Festivities: A Two-Day Extravaganza

HoliDay 1: Holika Dahan (Burning of Holika)

The celebrations actually begin a night before Holi with Holika Dahan, a bonfire symbolizing the burning of evil. People gather around the fire, sing bhajans, and offer prayers.

  • The festivities kick off with Holika Dahan, also known as Chhoti Holi (Little Holi).

  • In the evening, people gather around a large bonfire, symbolizing the burning away of negativity and evil.

  • This is also a time for prayers, offerings, and community spirit.

Day 2: Rangwali Holi (Festival of Colors)

The next day is the main event – Rangwali Holi, the day of colors! Get ready to be transformed into a walking canvas. People of all ages come together, armed with dry colored powders (gulal) and water guns, and the playful drenching begins! It's a day to forget inhibitions, laugh together, and create memories that last a lifetime.

  • Get ready for the grand finale! Rangwali Holi, also known as Dhulendi, is the day when India explodes with color.

  • Early morning, streets are transformed into vibrant battlegrounds. People armed with dry colored powders (gulal) and water guns (pichkaris) playfully chase and drench each other in a kaleidoscope of colors.

  • Laughter, music, and the sweet aroma of traditional Holi delicacies fill the air.

  • This is a day to forget inhibitions, strengthen bonds, and celebrate the spirit of togetherness.

Read more: 15 Must-See Festivals and Fairs Showcasing India's Culture

Beyond the colors:

Holi is also a time for feasting. Indulge in traditional sweets like gujiya and ladoos, and savor delicious street food like dahi vada and bhang pakoras (remember, these last ones might have a special kick!).

Experience Holi in India:

HoliWhile Holi is celebrated with enthusiasm throughout India, there are a few places that truly capture the magic and spirit of the festival. Here are the hot spots:

  • Mathura & Vrindavan: As the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Mathura and Vrindavan are epicenters of Holi celebrations. Weeks of festivities, temple gatherings, and street parades make for an unforgettable experience. Witness the unique Lathmar Holi in Barsana, where women playfully "beat" men with sticks.

  • Pushkar, Rajasthan: This sacred town offers a colorful, festive Holi experience with music, dance, and a more organized atmosphere, drawing both Indian and international travelers.

  • Shantiniketan, West Bengal: Embrace Holi in a gentler, cultural way at this university town. Enjoy folk songs, dances, and the traditional Basanta Utsav (Spring Festival).

  • Hampi, Karnataka: For a unique South Indian take on Holi, head to Hampi. Witness lively celebrations against the backdrop of ancient ruins.

  • Delhi & Mumbai: Experience the urban energy of Holi in these major cities. Parties, events, and a vibrant atmosphere await, though it may be less traditional.

Tips for Playing Holi:


  • Plan ahead: Holi is a popular time for travel, so book accommodations and any necessary transport in advance.

  • Dress comfortably: Wear old clothes you don't mind getting stained. White is the traditional choice, as it shows off the colors beautifully.

  • Protect yourself: Apply coconut oil or petroleum jelly to your hair and exposed skin to make it easier to remove the colors later.

  • Be respectful: While everyone is fair game during Holi, always ask permission before applying colors to someone, especially elders or strangers.

  • Stay hydrated: It can get hot and sweaty, so remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Embrace the spirit: Holi is about letting loose, having fun, and spreading joy. Don't be afraid to get messy and join the celebrations!

  • Choose eco-friendly colors: Opt for natural, organic colors to protect your body and the environment.

Read more: Things to do and not do while celebrating Holi

Holi is a festival that transcends age, religion, and social barriers. It's a reminder to embrace life's colors, spread joy, and celebrate the spirit of togetherness. So, this Holi, get ready to be drenched in love, laughter, and of course, colors!

Happy Holi, everyone!

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