Also known as the “Festival of Colors”, Holi perhaps ranks among the biggest festivals of India. Holi is celebrated all over the country and mostly marked as the opening festival in the Hindu calendar. It is held on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu calendar. The festival is mostly held in the month of March and is the greatest spring festival of Hindu community.
Holi in India is celebrated to mark the annihilation and burning of various evil forces like Holika, Holaka and Putana who used to trouble the villagers. There is also a social significance in the festival as it marks the time of good harvests and fertility of the land. The festival’s main emphasis is the lighting of Holi. This burning ritual takes place on the day before the main festival. The pyre which is made of wood and branches of trees is lit. Fire crackers are also tied to the pyre.
The second day, popularly known as Dhulheti, is celebrated with widespread enjoyment and fanfare. People enjoy themselves by throwing colored powder and water at each other all over the day. In historical times, colored powders made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi Bilva and herbal recipes were considered to have a medicinal effect on the diseases like viral fever and cold which were prevalent during the spring season. A special drink called thandai is prepared which also contains a local intoxicant known as bhang.
Holi is celebrated in almost all parts of India. It is known as Dol Purnima as well. Some states where Holi is celebrated with immense fanfare are Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, West Bengal, Gujarat and Manipur. People irrespective of age take part in the Holi celebrations in these places.
In some of the places in the country, especially in North India, people celebrate Holi by distributing gifts and sweets to their family members, friends and relatives and exchanging greetings. Popular gifts for Holi are box of sweets and Gujjias. Clothes like white crisp cotton salwar-suit for women and kurta-pyjama for men are also gifted. Other gifts that are popular include a packet of bright-colored flowers, home decoration items, baskets and bouquets.