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Holi ( Hindi , f., होली, holī) is an Indian spring festival that comes from Hindu tradition on the first full moon day of the month of Phalgun (February / March). This “festival of colors” lasts at least two, in some areas of India up to ten days.

Krishna with the Gopis playing with the colors
Colors for Holi in a market in Mysore
Holi in Pune
Holi in Bahraich , March 23, 2016
Holi in Pushkar , Rajasthan
Holi in Rome ( Italy ).
Holi Festival 2017 in Italy.01.jpg

With Holi , the festival is mainly referred to in northern India and Nepal , in other parts of the country it is known by other names. In Maharashtra , for example, it is called Shimga , in Goa Shigmo , in Madhya Pradesh Phaga , in West Bengal and Oriya Dol Yatra . In the south the festival is known as Kamadahana .

Process and meaning

Holi is one of the oldest festivals in India. Five days after the full moon is Rangapanchami (Ranga = color; Pancami = the 5th lunar day), the second day of the festival. On this day all barriers by caste , gender, age and social status seem to have been lifted. There is an exuberant celebration and people sprinkle and sprinkle each other with colored water and colored powder, the gulal . Those who refuse to be overbearing should at least discreetly paint each other with some powder paint. Despite all the changes in modern Indian society, the sacred meaning is still clearly recognizable, for example the colors are still usually consecrated beforehand on the altar and people bring blessings. The colored powders were originally made from certain flowers, roots and herbs that have a healing effect. Today, synthetic colors are often used, some of which can even be harmful.

On the first day a fire is lit at night and a figure made of straw is burned in it, as a symbol for the demoness Holika. Various myths deal with this demoness: One of the most famous stories tells:

The child prince Prahlada was to be persuaded by his father to do him all divine honor, but the boy continued to worship only Vishnu . The king tried to kill his son by various means, but each time Vishnu intervened and saved the child. Finally the king resorted to a ruse: his sister Holika, who was protected from the fire by special powers, should jump into the fire with Prahlada on her lap and burn him in this way. But the flames spared the child and Holika was left with a pile of ashes . Afterwards, people celebrate the festival of Holi as a reminder of the destruction of the demoness.

The stories of Krishna's childhood and youth are closely related to Holi . He, too, is said to have celebrated the play of colors with his companion Radha and the other shepherdesses. Here Hindus interpret the tender "game" with colors as "purple" of Krishna, as a symbol for the " divine game ".

The erotic character of the spring festival is also expressed in the festival Kamadahan , which people celebrate in southern India at the same time. The legend:

Once Kama , the god of love, tried to disturb Shiva in his meditation. But in anger the latter burned him to ashes with his third eye. Only the pleading of Ratri, Kama’s wife, appeased him and he gave him life back.
Since then, this day has been dedicated to the God of love.

Like all festivals, Holi is also very complex in its meaning. In the spiritual realm, as can be seen in the associated mythology, it conveys the message of the triumph of good over evil. In nature, on the other hand, it marks the victory of spring over winter, because the festival begins when nature blossoms. Another important point for people is the aspect of reconciliation, because it is said that old disputes should also be buried these days. It is common to consume an intoxicant called a bhang during Holi . Quite a few also drink alcohol, which is traditionally frowned upon, which is becoming more and more of a problem, especially in cities due to the resulting violence.

According to traditional Hindu ideas, widows should abstain from earthly pleasures and consequently should not celebrate Holi. Since 2013 the non-governmental organization Sulabh International , founded by Bindeshwar Pathak , which advocates for human rights, has been organizing Holi festivals for widows who live in ashrams in Varanasi and Vrindavan .

A spring festival similar to Holi, Nouruz , is celebrated in the Iranian culture. Holi is one of the liberating rituals of repentance, in which social norms and moral concepts are dissolved for a short time. Socially high-ranking people mingle with the common people at these festivals, which are also widespread in the European cultural area, while the citizens occasionally take power in a symbolic action. Such legitimate border crossings connect Holi with Carnival and in the United States with Mardi Gras .

Holi is being adapted into commercial, party-like events in different parts of the world.


Beginning of the Holi festival
year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
1st feast day 8th of March 27th of March 17. March 6th March March 23 March 13th 2nd March March 21st March 10th 28th March

Commercial Marketing

For several years now, the “Festival of Colors” has been offered worldwide by event organizers without reference to the calendar spring full moon on different dates spread over the year on a commercial basis.

Holi Festival of Colors Tour

“Holi Festival of Colors” event in Germany 2012

In 2012 Holi Concept GmbH started a series of music festivals entitled Festivals of Colors , inspired by the Indian festival of colors. Spring Festival. Several DJs play for a whole day and announce color countdowns, whereupon everyone throws a handful of colored powder into the air. Over the years the festival has developed into a world-famous event and has several thousand visitors on each date. The focus is on Germany, where celebrations take place in over 30 cities. Already in 2013 around 10,000 participants celebrated in Munich.

Holi Color Rush Festival

Since 2013, Justa Event GmbH from Hanover has been organizing a series of music festivals with the title Holi Farbrausch Festival as days full of color with varied music, Indian live artists and a stage show. Event locations in Germany are Gelsenkirchen, Geldern, Georgsmarienhütte, Marburg, Göttingen, Paderborn and Hanover.

Web links

Commons : Holi  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Peter J. Claus, Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills (Eds.): South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Routledge, New York 2003, p. 286
  2. Holi in India (en) [1]
  3. Holi , Religion Facts
  4. ^ Tradition of Bhang , Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India
  5. When is Holi? when-is.com
  6. 10000 celebrate Holi in Munich , press report