In India, a giant street festival and paint fight mark ancient religious rite of spring

Holi, India’s Festival of Colors is a raucous spring festival that can be fun for tourists.

The ancient Hindu religious festival usually falls in early March, the date determined by the lunar calendar. It’s also known as the Festival of Love.

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a ritual of spring and a  family affair in Goa, India. Photo by Terri Colby
Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a ritual of spring and a family affair in Goa, India.

There are bonfires and drinking, but the festival is notable because of the throwing of colors. Locals and tourists participate freely by chasing each other and tossing the colored waters or powders at anyone and everyone during street festivals. So be careful if you don’t want to participate. In any event, don’t wear your best clothes.

The throwing of colors once had particular significance as a rite of spring. Not only a time to imbibe and to frolic, the colorful powders made from natural herbs and plants were used to fight off colds and viruses that came with the change of the seasons.

The celebrations begin with a Holika bonfire the night before Holi. The next day, everyone is fair game for the throwing of the colors, no longer made from natural herbs,  in parks and nearly any open space. Groups carry drums and musical instruments and sing and dance along the way.

Some men have become intoxicated and aggressive toward women travelers in recent years, so caution is important.

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