Holi is a national festival in Nepal and India. While Nepal and India are full of cultures and festivals, Holi – the festival of happiness is one that both the Nepalese and Indians look forward to the most. It is a vivid and joyous ancient Hindu celebration that has now gained popularity among non-Hindu cultures.
Though originated in India, the ‘festival of colors’ is spread to almost every corner of Asia and western parts of the world via the Indian diaspora. After all, the festival is all about getting together to eat, dance, throw colors at each other, and have fun.
The main matter of one of the most awaited and joyful celebrations, Holi is to commemorate the end of winter, the beginning of spring, and thanksgiving for a successful harvest. Also known as ‘the festival of love, Holi also signifies the triumph of good over evil.
When is Holi Festival Celebrated?
Holi is a Hindu festival that takes place on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunar month, Phalguna/Falgun, which usually falls in March. Holi's exact date varies from year to year. For this year, 2022, Holi will begin on Friday 18 March.
The mythology behind Holi Festival
Holi is related to a number of Hindu stories and legends. One of them is related to Hiranyakashyap, a demon king who desired immortality and the Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap had a desire to be worshiped by everyone, but his own son, Prahlad, preferred to worship Lord Vishnu. It enraged him, so the demon king summoned his sister Holika, who was impervious to fire, to join Prahlad on the flames.
When Holika sat in the fire with Prahlad, the flames were unable to reach him. Holika was slain as a result of it. The demon king was then killed by Lord Vishnu. So, Holi is celebrated as a symbol of good triumphing over evil.
Another Hindu Mythology says Holi is to honor the pure love of Radha and Krishna. The story begins when Krishna was concerned as a child that the fair-skinned Radha would reject him because of his appearance.
According to the legends, Krishna had a dark blue complexion because a demon poisoned him as an infant but didn’t die. Instead, the demon turned into ashes. Krishna's mother, Yashoda, was fed up with his desperation and told him to approach Radha and smear some vividly colored powder on her face. When he did that, Radha completely fell in love with him. Radha and Krishna became a symbol of divine love after that. So, to recall the legendary moment of Krishna and Radha, that shared love and happiness, Holi is celebrated each year very joyously.
How is Holi Festival Celebrated?
The celebration of the Holi festival starts on the evening of the Phalgun Purnima (full moon) on the Hindu Lunar Solar calendar. People light bonfires, perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire, and pray for the destruction of their internal evil on this day which is also known as Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan.
The next morning after the Holika bonfire is known as Rangwali Holi (colorful Holi), in which everyone gathers to play with colors. People of all ages gather to the streets for a day of fun, dry color (abir in Hindi/Nepali) smearing on one other's faces, and colored water splashing. Anyone and everyone is fair game on Holi, whether a friend or a stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, youngsters or elderly, they all participate in the smearing of colors, dancing, singing, and feasting. People would pay visits to friends and family to offer Holi treats, food, and drinks. On this day, traditional cocktails and sweets mixed with bhang (a cannabis-based intoxicant) are very popular.
In a religious context, the colors are rich in symbolism and have a variety of meanings: they might represent a vivid new life or even sin in some ways. Washing off the dye at the end of the day can represent a renewed dedication to living wisely, as well as a cleansing of evils and demons for some.
Holi Celebration in Nepal
Holi is also called Fagu Purnima which literally translates to the full moon of Fagu/Falgun. The main theme of the joyous Holi festival is to welcome spring, thank the good harvest, and share the love. But, the ritual may vary from place to place. India might celebrate Holi according to their customs or legends or locations. Nepal also follows a similar yet slightly different ritual as India.
A day before Holi or at the full moon night, a lingo or a chir (a long bamboo stick) is erected and covered in various colors, then is taken down and burned to announce the commencement of Holi in Kathmandu Durbar Square. This custom is called Chir Dahan or Holika Dahan, and it commemorates Holika's end, related to demon Holika legend.
The following day as like any other place, Nepal and its places, mainly capital Kathmandu and streets are fully covered with different bright colors. And inside Kathmandu, the Basantapur Durbar Square has been the focal point for Holi celebrations.
The Holi celebrations here are vibrant and boisterous. The crowd is pumped up, and the entire atmosphere resembles a paintball match. The mob can be seen running around with brightly colored faces and water balloons. The popular celebrities can be seen singing and singing in the Holi concert. The tank full of water is splashed all over the crowd. People are seen in white clothes to allow the colors to sit properly on the outfits.
Listening to or reading these things is already fun. Experiencing and celebrating could bring much more.
After all, the Holi Festival is full of fun and love, which is why many regard the event as an opportunity to resolve past conflicts, sour relationships, and other hurdles because it stands for accepting differences and friendship.
A note that the Holi celebration takes place in the Hilly region a day before in the Terai region in Nepal.
Concerns during Holi Festival
While Holi is a celebration with the main theme to share love and happiness and be selfless, things may not go as planned. Given that the celebration is carefree and done in a huge mass and among strangers, there could be some thoughtless actions and incidents. For example, in the name of celebration, the pickpockets have the greatest chance in the mass. The over-limit intoxication could lead to disputes and fights. The stubbornness of some people might disturb one’s pressure.
Like the proverb, “there are two sides to every story”, Holi also has its positive sides as well as negative sides. It already is a chaotic and crazy event. It could be challenging if you do not have proper guidance and information about this festival as you will have to encounter many sudden things. So, if you're heading out on the streets on this day, here are some of the most important tips for having a safe and enjoyable celebration.
Tips for enjoying Holi 2022 in Nepal
- We recommend you to celebrate with your friends or find people to celebrate with. As the saying goes, safety in numbers, and having someone watching out for you helps you feel more secure.
- Avoiding the wild crowds would be the best option to have fun without much disturbance.
- Old clothes or wanting to get rid of clothes could come in handy today. Or you can purchase the cheap clothes sold for Holi because once your clothes are soaked in colors, there is no chance of reusing them.
- Safety comes first. Our eyes are gentle and any unwanted thing could disturb our delicate organ. So, we recommend wearing your glasses or shades for eye safety before you set out for the celebration.
- Likely, cover your skin with your moisturizer and SPF before coming out of your room on this day.
- Putting some hair oil into your hair and skin before applying the color could prevent it from absorbing.
- Water is crucial. The day is already busy. So, you could get busy and exhausted. So, keep yourself enough hydrated.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’. If you do not want to be smeared in colors, or dance with the people there, do not hesitate to speak up.
- As the celebration takes in huge mass or a group with colors and water, your valuables could be lost and damaged. So, carry only the important things for the day in the waterproof bag.
Holi is genuinely a celebration of love and selflessness, not just a one-of-a-kind experience. It brings you one step closer to creating memories that will last a lifetime. So gather your pals, get your groove on, be prepared to be drenched in colorful water, and have a blast!