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What is Holi?

In terms of bucket-list level celebrations that you simply have to experience, Holi should be right up there with Mardi Gras, Dia de los Muertos and Carnival. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of wild revelers pelting each other with handfuls of brightly colored powder. Imagine a snow ball fight with all the colors of the rainbow—minus the cold, and that’s only part of the remarkable festivities. In some parts of India, like the Braj region where Krishna grew up, the festival lasts 16 days, but we’re just going to focus on two days of celebration: the Holika bonfire, and the joyful chaos of the following day.

First, a little history. Holi is a celebration of the arrival of spring. Imagine thanksgiving for a strong harvest, the chance to forgive past slights, an opportunity to make new friends, laugh, play and celebrate good vanquishing evil all rolled into one holiday, and you’re on your way to embracing Holi. The name comes from “Holika.” She was the evil sister of demon royalty, and her brother, King Hiranyakashipu, was indestructible. Naturally, this made him a little arrogant, and he aspired to godhood.

His son, Prahlada, was cut from a different cloth. He was a loyal devotee of Lord Vishnu, the first and supreme God of Hinduism who was known as “the Preserver and Protector.” Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with Dad and his extended family. His Aunt Holika tricked him into sitting on a bonfire pyre with her, which was lit as soon as he joined her. Holika wasn’t an idiot. She dressed for the occasion by wearing a fire-proof cloak, but as the flames roared around the pair, the cloak leapt off of her and wrapped itself around Prahlada. Seeing his sister burn and his son survive, Hiranyakashipu was enraged, and slammed his mace into a pillar. Vishnu heard the noise, intervened and killed the Demon King. The following day, the people celebrated by smearing ash from the bonfire on their foreheads. Over the years, the ash would be replaced with a more colorful alternative.

Today, Holi centers around two days at the approach of the vernal equinox. This year, Holi will be celebrated on March 23rd. On the night before Holi, people still celebrate with a bonfire to commemorate light’s victory over darkness. The following day is when things get a little different. And amazing. The morning after the bonfire is a no-holds-barred exercise in good-natured chaos. People leave their homes armed with vividly colored powders, squirt guns and balloons filled with colored water, and an overwhelming sense of fun. Everyone is fair game—rich, poor, old, young—no one is spared from being coated from head to toe in in lively, garish colors. Bands march through the streets while people enjoy intoxicating beverages—the morning celebration is one of the wildest parties that has to be seen to be believed.

After the morning’s festivities, revelers spend the afternoon cleaning up, visiting with friends and family later in the evening. It’s one of the greatest celebrations on the planet, and the good news is, people from many other cultures are starting to realize it. Holi is now being celebrated not just in India, Nepal and Asia, but also throughout Western Europe and North America. Naturally, it’s a perfect fit for SomruS. We celebrate the flavor, diversity and color of India in everything we do, and we couldn’t be happier to spread the Holi message of good-spirited mayhem, fun and a celebration of goodness and friendship. India has a lot to offer the world, and we’re thrilled to help spread the word.