That celebration is Holi, the Hindu festival of love, color and spring. It’s a time when Indians don simple, inexpensive clothes and take to the streets to drench each other in clouds of colored powder and buckets of water. There’s singing, dancing, and of course, food.
Holi this year falls on Friday.
But in some parts of India, communities begin the festivities by lighting bonfires the night before in a celebration known as Holika Dahan, or Choti Holi.
The story goes something like this: The demon king Hiranyakashayap, who wanted to be worshipped as a god, became angry that his son Prahlad was instead a devotee of the deity Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe. In turn, Hiranyakashayap conspired with his sister Holika to kill his son.
As part of the plan, Holika would to lure Prahlad onto her lap and into a bonfire, while her enchanted shawl protected her from the wrath of the flames. But Vishnu thwarted the duo’s plan and rescued Prahlad. In the end, Holika died in the fire and Hiranyakashayap died at the hands of Vishnu. Prahlad eventually replaced his father as king.
Today, street market vendors sell richly hued heaps of powder so that people can follow in the footsteps of Radha and Krishna.
Despite being a Hindu festival, Holi now transcends the boundaries of religion and is celebrated by people across the Indian subcontinent. People young and old come together to douse loved ones and strangers alike in hues of red, yellow, pink, purple and more for a day of laughter and fun.