It’s that time of year again when the streets of India fill with colored powder and people celebrating Holi, the holiday that kicks off spring with a huge party. The festival of colors gives Indians an opportunity to temporarily forget social customs and instead “let loose,” according to religionfacts.com. Though Holi doesn’t start until Thursday, the bash has already begun in many parts of the country.
One legend of Holi centers around young god Krishna, who was mischievous and jealous of goddess Radha’s skin. Krishna, at his mother’s suggestion, used powder to color Radha’s face, and it became a tradition, as holifestival.org explains. Another origin story focuses on the prince Prahlad, who was fooled into sitting into a fire by his aunt, Holika. Prahlad didn’t burn, and so now revelers light bonfires for Holi to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
Today, people recognize Holi by drinking the marijuana beverage bhang, giving gifts, throwing gulal powder and using the refrain “bura na mano holi hai,” which means “don’t mind, it is Holi,” the Huffington Post reported. They also soak each other with pichkari water guns and water balloons, though this year celebrities and local leaders have urged partiers to have a dry Holi that doesn’t waste the already scarce water.
“The joys of Holi knows no bounds and the festival is filled with so much fun and frolic. I don’t play much with colors, but I completely enjoy the sight of people drenched with water and gulal,” TV star Shakti Arora told the Hindustan Times. But he added: “As a message to all my fans, have a safe and happy Holi and please save water.”
You can get in on the colored action even if you’re not in India this week. New York City has Holi celebrations this Saturday as well as on April 23 and 30, according to DNAinfo. Washington, D.C., will host a festival of colors on April 9. In the past, it’s even proved popular among Mormon students in Utah.
“When you put colors on your face you cannot make out one from another who the person is,” student Sonal Yadav told the Washington Post in 2014. “Really, it’s the colors of brotherhood, love and friendship.”