Holi festival: History behind the colourful event

The Holi festival is celebrated every year in the first week of March

The Holi festival is celebrated every year in the first week of March Photo: Getty

The Holi festival is an ancient, traditional Hindu festival that marks the first day of Spring. It is celebrated by people throwing coloured powder at one another.

Known as the Festival of Colour, it is mainly celebrated in India and Nepal. However other countries have adopted this tradition throughout the years.

The festival dates back to a 4th century Puranas poem and is even described in a 7th century Sanskrit play that was written by an Indian emperor Harsha.

“Witness the beauty of the great cupid festival which excites curiosity…everything is coloured yellowish red and rendered dusty by the heaps of scented powder blown all over,” Mr Harsha wrote.

When is the Holi festival?

This year, the Holi festival will be celebrated on the March 2. Every year the festival is celebrated on a different date due to it being determined by the phase of the moon.

Why do people celebrate the Holi festival?

The festival is a celebration of good versus evil as well as fertility, colour and love. It is based off various mythologies including the burning of the devil Holika and the love story of Radha and Krishna.

Krishna and Radha figure in the legend of two people who were in love. However Krishna felt self-conscious about their different skin colours. On the advice on his mother, he playfully painted her face so it was the same colour as his.

How is Holi celebrated?

Holi is spilt into two events called Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi. Holika Dahan is celebrated the night before Rangwali Holi. People burn wood and dung-cakes to symbolise the good defeating the evil.

The next day on Rangwali Holi, people gather in a public space and throw handfuls of coloured powder at one another.

People throw coloured powder at each other while singing and dancing.

People throw coloured powder at each other while singing and dancing. Photo: Getty

What is the Holi powder made over?

The colour in the powder is called Gulal powder is made from herbs, water, sandalwood powder and rose leaves.

‘Can I get the coloured powder off my skin?’

Yes. Moisturising the skin beforehand can prevent it from sticking. Some people oil their hair so the powder is easily removable. Another solution is to wear a hat.

‘Can I remove the coloured powder from my clothes?’

Once again, yes. The coloured powder can be removed from clothing items by soaking them in hot water and a non-chlorine bleach. Clothes can also be rubbed with methylated spirits, soaked in lemon juice or even sprayed with window cleaner.

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