India Festival: Holi Festival of Colours

India Festival: Holi Festival of Colours

Everywhere around the world, Hindus celebrate Holi, the Festival of Colors, a popular springtime festival observed on the last full moon of the lunar month. Participants traditionally throw bright, vibrant powders at friends and strangers alike, celebrating the arrival of Spring and allowing everyone a momentary freedom.

The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness named Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.

Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colors” from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.

The festival marks the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season. Winter is over and spring arrives as nature awakens with its abundance of colors, joy and generosity. This is what this beautiful and flamboyant festival is all about.


When is Holi in 2016, 2017 and 2018?

The date of Holi is different every year in India! In most of India, Holi is celebrated at the end of winter, on the day after the full moon in March each year. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion and to burn evil spirits. This is known as Holika Dahan.

In 2016, Holi is on March 24, with Holika Dahan on March 23.

In 2017, Holi is on March 13, with Holika Dahan on March 12.

In 2018, Holi is on March 2, with Holika Dahan on March 1.

However, in the states of West Bengal and Odisha, the Holi festival is celebrated a day earlier as Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima.

Holi Dates Detailed Information

The Timing of Holika Dahan — According to Hindu scriptures, the lighting and worship of the bonfires must be performed at a specific period (muhurta) after sunset on Purnima Tithi (the full moon lunar day), otherwise it will bring great misfortune. Choosing the right muhurta for the Holika Dahan ritual is particularly important, more so than for any other Hindu festival ritual. Ideally, Holika Dahan should be carried out during the auspicious occasion of Pradosh Kaal, when day and night meet (which starts from the time of sunset). However, it mustn’t be done until Bhadra Tithi is over. In 2016, the muhurta for Holika Dahan in India has been calculated by most astrologers to be from sunset until around 9 p.m. (depending on location).


How is Holi Celebrated?

People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other’s faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations.

Special Holi events with music, rain dances, and colors are organized in large cities across India.

            Marijuana / Cannabis sativa/ Bhang

Hindus of India and Nepal from thousands of years use cannabis in religious festivals. Cannabis plant is called Bhang, and leaves of Bhang are use in the worship of god “Shiva”. Bhang is offered to “Shiva”, also consumed as gift of “Shiva” (Prasad). Bhang consumed as a fried food, drinks made with water and milk especially on Shivratri festival and Holi festival, however consuming Bhang without rite is considered a sin.  Shaivite yogis (Shiva devotee) smoke ganja- consists of the leaves and the plant top and hashish (charas) in the form of cigarette or use special clay pipe called chillum.  





What Rituals are Performed?

The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of demoness Holika. On the eve of Holi, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion. This is known as Holika Dahan. As well as performing a special puja, people sing and dance around the fire, and walk around it three times.

The burning of Holika is mentioned in the Hindu text, the Narada PuranaApparently, Holika’s brother demon King Hiranyakashyap instructed her to burn his son, Prahlad, because he followed Lord Vishnu and didn’t worship him. Holika sat with Prahlad in her lap, in the burning fire, because it was thought that no fire could harm her. However, due to his devotion to Lord Vishnu who protected him, Prahlad survived and Holika was charred to death.

What to Expect During the Celebrations

Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. You’ll end up saturated in water, with color all over your skin and clothes. Some of it doesn’t wash out easily, so be sure to wear old clothes. It’s also a good idea to rub hair oil or coconut oil into your skin beforehand, to prevent the color from absorbing.

A students with her face smeared in coloured powder, celebrates Holi at a university campus in Chandigarh, India.

Holi Safety Information

As Holi provides an opportunity to disregard social norms and generally “let loose”, males commonly take it too far and act disrespectfully.

Single women should avoid going out alone in public places during Holi, as inebriated young Indian guys often pose a safety threat. These males, who have consumed excessive amounts of bhang and other intoxicants, will inappropriately touch women and make a nuisance of themselves. They are usually in groups and can be very aggressive. Incidents of rape also do occur, which makes it important to take proper care during Holi.

If you plan on going out into the streets on Holi, do so early in the morning. Be back in your hotel by midday before the men get too inebriated.  Many hotels hold special Holi parties for their guests in a safe environment.

Expect to have colored powder and water rubbed and thrown onto your face, mouth and ears. Keep your mouth shut and protect your eyes as much as possible.



Why Shiva Is Associated With Bhang?

The blessed day of Maha Shivaratri, it’s only right to find out a little bit about why the ultimate badman Shiva loved his weed so much. Cannabis has been consumed in India in some form or the other for centuries. In the Vedic scriptures, cannabis is one of the five sacred plants and is a source of happiness, compassion and liberation.

According to legend, Shiva once had an argument with his family, and wandered off into a field, where he slept under a cannabis plant. Upon waking up, he consumed some of the cannabis and felt instantly rejuvenated and refreshed, prompting him to adopt cannabis as his favourite indulgence.


There is another version to the story however, and it has to do with the Samudra Manthan, when the gods and demons came together to churn the ocean to obtain Amrita, the drink of immortality. A byproduct of this churning was the poison Halahala, the most venomous poison in the universe, whose fumes could kill both gods and demons.

Shiva drank this poison to protect everyone, and was later offered bhang to cool down.


This is the reason why Shiva is not just associated with bhang, but is literally known as the all-encompassing Lord of Bhang. Hindu mythology !!





Marijuana (psychogenic drug) comes from the leaves and flowering tops of the hemp plant,Cannabis sativa. In some cultures, the leaves are steeped in hot water and the liquid is drunk, much as one might drink tea, generally in India. Hashish, which is derived from the resin exuded by the cannabis plant and make into a gummy power. Hashish, like marijuana, is smoked. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Evidence suggests a strong relationship between daily marijuana use and the occurrence of psychotic symptoms. Marijuana may lead to unpleasant as well as pleasant experience. For example, if a person uses the drug while in an unhappy, angry, suspicious, or frightened mood, these feelings may be magnified. With higher dotages and with certain unstable or susceptible individuals, marijuana can produce extreme euphoria (happiness), hilarity (exceedingly funny), and over-talkativeness, but it can also produce intense anxiety and depression as well as delusion, hallucinations and other psychotic-like experiences.

Marijuana’s short-range physiological effects include a moderate increase in heart rate, slowing of reaction time, a sight contraction of pupil size, bloodshot and itchy eyes, a dry mouth, and increased appetite.  Furthermore, marijuana induces memory dysfunction and slowing of information processing. Even at mild doses, it is not safe to operate heavy machinery or drive a car while under the influence of marijuana.


Marijuana’s short-range physiological effects include a moderate increase in heart rate, slowing of reaction time, a sight contraction of pupil size, bloodshot and itchy eyes, a dry mouth, and increased appetite.  Furthermore, marijuana induces memory dysfunction and slowing of information processing. Even at mild doses, it is not safe to operate heavy machinery or drive a car while under the influence of marijuana. Although no one has ever been known to die from an overdose of marijuana, it is not exactly a healthy habit. Marijuana smoker get considerably more carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), carbon dioxide, and tar exposure than do the smokers of ordinary cigarettes. The effects of long-term and habitual marijuana use are still under investigation, although a number of possible adverse side effects have been related to the prolonged heavy use of marijuana.

One study exploring past substance use history in incarcerated murderers reported that among men who committed murder, marijuana was the most commonly used drug. One-third indicated that they used the drug before the homicide, and two-thirds were experiencing some effect of the drug at the time of the murder. Some research has reported that many marijuana use abstainers reported having uncomfortable withdrawal-like symptoms such as nervousness, tension, sleep problems, and appetite change.





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