Visiting India during Holi

In the north of India, Holi is an important festival, celebrated with much fervor. If this is your first Holi in India, there are a few things one should keep in mind.


Background: The story behind Holi.

Holi is celebrated at the end of winter and the onset of spring.

There are many stories behind why Holi is celebrated. The one that I know is of Holika and Prahlad.

Prahlad was a young boy, who was very devout, and was in favour with the gods. His father didn’t like this, he was envious of his son. And so, his father devised a plan. His daughter and Prahlad’s sister Holika had the gift of being able to withstand fire. Pahlad’s father devised that Prahlad would sit in Holika’s lap while Holika sat in the holy fire- the idea being, that Holika would survive and Prahlad would be killed. However, when the time came, and Prahlad sat in Holika’s lap, she was destroyed, and Prahlad survived. That is why the night before Holi, many households light a bon fire. The next morning is a celebration of this good over evil – the festival of colour known as “Holi”.


Now, although it may look like chaos, there are some rules/ etiquettes to playing Holi, which also double as safety precautions


1.       Always play with people you know- do not play with strangers.
This is more of a safety tip. In India, Holi is played with dry colours and water colours. By the time you finish playing, there is no telling what you will look like. With this in mind, stick with your friends, and stay safe.

2.       Be careful what you drink.
Also a safety tip- at this time of year, a lot of the traditional foods and drinks contain “Bhang”(better known in English as Marijuana or Cannabis). If you aren’t sure of it’s effects on you, don’t consume it.  


3.       Don’t wear your favorite clothes
Traditionally the clothes worn for playing Holi are discarded after you finish playing. They will be in too bad shape to hold on to afterwards. Also, don’t wear anything that will become transparent if some one throws water on you. So if you have an old pair of jeans or a horrible t -shirt that some one gifted you, now would be the time to wear it.

4.       Don’t force any one who doesn’t want to play to join in.
Holi is a lot of fun- and naturally you would want others to join in. If there is some one who doesn’t want to play, just wish them a Happy Holi move on to some one who does want to play. Remember if a family is observing mourning, they will not celebrate festivals.


5.       Oil yourself and use nail polish
Yes, you read correct. Put oil on all exposed parts or your skin (arms, legs, feet, hands, face, and yes, your hair). Why? Because you never know what kind of colours will be thrown on you. And more importantly, this is the best way to get rid of the colour from your skin when you take a bath afterwards. The oil acts as a barrier/ layer between your skin and the colour thrown on you. It will save you much hassle later on. Use any kind of oil easily available at your local store. Buy a small bottle since you are not likely to use it ever again. If you prefer an oil which also acts as a sun block, use coco nut oil.
Remember that coconut oil freezes below room temperature in Delhi winters, so you might have to microwave it, or put the bottle in a mug of warm water to melt it. This is a traditional Indian oil and since they are natural, they will not do your skin any harm. Use a clear nail polish to protect your nails from harsh colours. Again, the nail polish will save your nails from being coloured an unusual colour during Holi.


6.       Do not swallow or consume any colour. Chances are it isn’t food grade. Avoid contact with eyes.

I hope these tips have been of some help to you.  If you need more specific tips, do contact me via email.