The Westernisation Of Holi

Posted by - Published on June 23, 2015

You may have been lucky enough to attend the Holi Festival of Colours in the UK last summer or you may be familiar with the term from the daily Facebook adverts exclaiming ‘last chance to get 25% off tickets if you buy today’. This festival gives ticket holders the chance to return to childhood whilst attacking each other with powdered paint.

Sounds fun right?

Well, it is!

This festival started in India and was traditionally part of the Hindu calendar. There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is celebrated as a colour festival. The word ‘Holi’ comes from the word ‘Holika’ who is the sister of the evil demon king, Hiranyakashipu. The king gained power to become virtually indestructible; with these powers he grew arrogant and believed he was God. His son, Phahlada, did not buy into his father’s claims and remained devoted to the God Vishnu. Phahlada held his beliefs strong even through torture holi festand punishment from his father. Holika then took it upon herself to try and kill Phahlada by inviting him to sit on a pyre with her, Holika was protected from the fire by a magical cloak but Phahlada was exposed to the flames. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika onto Phahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu then revealed himself and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of the fire that burned Holika.

This Hindu festival traditionally begins with the Holika bonfire, singing and dancing. The following day the celebrations transform into a carnival of colours. The beautiful thing about this festival is that all the hierarchy and power that exists in reality is removed as people of all ages, race and wealth take part in the colour fight.  People cover family, friends and strangers alike in powdered paint and then splash water from balloons, water guns and buckets over them. The water helps the paint to come to life. This festival is not only big in spirit, it also has a huge number of participants so many open spaces (from car parks to temples) are used to host it.

In London they have replaced car parks/temples with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the banging of drums with electronic dance music. Though one thing definitely remains the same; the copious amounts of colourful powdered paint.

To summarise, Holi is a festival of colour, love and frolic. We at Pave find nothing more rewarding than giving young people the opportunity to participate in such traditions and experience the beauty and wonders of India. We highly recommend experiencing this celebration in some form, whether it’s here in London or in its original splendour in India!

So go on – laugh, play, forgive and forget.

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