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Read about Holi rituals and customs that are prevalent in India.
Colors of India » Holi » Holi Customs & Traditions

Holi Customs & Traditions

On the first day of Holi or the full moon day, colored powder known as 'gulal' is arranged on a 'thali' (platter) and colored water is placed in a small brass pot known as 'lota'. As a good omen, the eldest male member of the family sprinkle colors from the 'thali' and 'lota' on each member of the family. People light huge bonfires at community grounds to commemorate the burning of Holika and a new life granted to the child-devotee Prahlad. As the fire burns brighter, people perform folk songs and drums on the rhythmic beats of the drums around the bonfires and ask the blessings of the holy fire. In some areas, people offer the first fruits, coconuts and harvest to the holy fire.

The embers of this fire are then carried home and people light fire in their houses from these embers. On the next day, children, men and women form separate groups and visit each other's houses smearing each other's faces and bodies with 'aabir' and 'gulal' and spurting colored water on people using 'pichkaris' and water balloons. Youngers pay respects to their elders by sprinkling some colors on their feet. Women decorate their homes with flowers and traditional 'rangolis' made on the doorways with colored rice powder or flowers and offer sweets, snacks and 'thandai', a milk-based cool drink to all those who visit their houses.

Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. The festival breathes an air of romance and social merriment. The young boys are allowed to intoxicate themselves, use rude words and play pranks on others. It is said that on this day, people befriend even their enemies and make a new beginning. Celebrated predominantly in North India, generally 'hasya kavi sammelan' or humor poem-meetings are arranged. At some places, people even give out awards for being the biggest fool! Traditionally, natural colors are prepared at home from flowers, especially from Tesu and Palash.

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