We’re finally in March, and that means there’s more than one thing to look forward to: yes, spring is coming; yes, the clocks are going forwards; and yes, if you’ve still given up whatever it was you gave up for Lent you’re doing pretty darn well… But something far more exciting than that is drawing tantalisingly close. And if you haven’t guessed (although the headline of this article should have given you a pretty good clue), it is the fast-approaching Indian festival of Holi that is getting us all jumping for joy.
If there is one thing you can say about Holi it’s that it is one of the more colourful festivals celebrated in India – and with the multitude of festivals celebrated across the country it is up against some pretty fierce competition. This Hindu festival is the perfect opportunity to let your hair down and play tricks on friends and family. In fact, one of the most common phrases you will hear throughout the festivities is ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai’ (roughly translated to mean: ‘Don’t be mad, it’s Holi’).
There are a number of rituals that take place through the course of this two-day celebration. Here are just a few of them…
At the heart of the festival is the celebration of good over evil. Each year, it is customary to light a bonfire to mark the traditional tale of the evil Holika being defeated by the victorious (and good) Prahlad and Lord Vishnu. A large communal fire is lit and when it has died down, the remaining embers are taken back to people’s houses and used to ignite smaller fires at home.
If you have ever seen images of Holi in full swing, those pictures are sure to have been a kaleidoscope of colours. This is due to the coloured powder that people smear on themselves and fire at each other during the festival. No one is safe from being doused with a rainbow-effect of powder or liquid. With its vibrant yellow colour, turmeric unsurprisingly plays a major role, but the colours range from bright reds and pinks to greens, blues, purples, and everything in between.
As with all Indian festivals, food is central to the celebrations. The preparation – and eating – of sweets is particularly popular. It is traditional for the women of a household to get up early to start making the day’s high-energy delicacies. Depending on which state you are in there are a range of different sweets that are eaten, including gujias and puran poli. Thandai (a milky drink made with almonds, sugar and spices) is drunk by the gallon-load just to make sure everyone is full of beans for the entire day.
Friends and Families
Another important custom is exchanging sweets and other gifts with loved ones. Youngsters show their respect to elders by offering them sweets, and children are rewarded with sweets and other gifts throughout the celebrations.
If you are planning to celebrate Holi this year, why not incorporate a visit to one of London’s finest Indian brasseries as part of the festivities? Serving traditional specialities, thalis and plenty of sweets you can be sure to celebrate this year’s Holi in style.