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When is Holi?

Dates, Where to Celebrate, and What to Expect at the Holi Festival in India,


Holi festival India

Travelers love getting painted during Holi in India

Photo by tibchris / Creative Commons

India's exciting Holi or "Festival of Colors" is based on the Hindu calendar and falls on a different date each year, however, it's easy to figure out when is Holi!

The Holi festival in India is a favorite with travelers, as colorful powder and water are thrown on everyone within range. Bhang -- made from cannabis -- is consumed while people dance, party, and drench each other with water and colored powders. Holi is not the time or place to wear your best clothes; leave your expensive camera in the hotel!

Holi celebrates the victory of good over evil, and commemorates the burning of the demoness Holika. The festival also signifies the end of Winter and hopes for the upcoming spring harvest. Large bonfires are set on the eve of Holi to burn away evil spirits.

The Hindu Calendar

The Holi festival in India always takes place on the day after the full moon in February or March. Specifically, per the Hindu calendar, Holi is on the last full moon day of the lunar month of Phalguna, or Phalgun Purnima.

When is Holi?

  • Holi 2012: Thursday, March 8
  • Holi 2013: Wednesday, March 27
  • Holi 2014: Monday, March 17
  • Holi 2015: Friday, March 6
  • Holi 2016: Wednesday, March 23
  • Holi 2017: Monday, March 13

Where to Celebrate Holi?

Holi is celebrated to some degree wherever a sizable Indian/Hindu population can be found, including Malaysia, Nepal, and Pakistan. The busiest places to witness Holi in India are: Delhi, Mathura, Vrindavan, Jaipur, and Barsana.

South India is not the place to be for a festive Holi; the celebration mainly takes place as traditions carried out inside of temples void of tourists.

Throwing Colors

Aside from simply being great fun, the throwing of colors during Holi once had medicinal significance. To counter colds and viruses brought on by the weather change in spring, the colorful powders were traditionally made from natural medicines such as neem and tumeric.

Today, most of the colored dye that is thrown during Holi is synthetically produced, and in sharp contrast to tradition, may actually harm one's health rather than help it! A study conducted in 2001 found that many of the dyes used during Holi were toxic and carried health threats; two of the colors, including red -- one of the most predominate colors -- were found to be made of carcinogenic chemicals.

Safety During the Holi Festival

Local men have become notoriously aggressive while intoxicated in recent years during Holi; their actions can spoil the fun for some traveling women. Read about misbehaving local men during Holi.

Plan on any clothing, jewelery, and items that you are carrying to become drenched and dyed during Holi. The dyes do not always wash out easily, so plan to keep that color-stained shirt as a souvenir of the festival!

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