Celebrating Holi in India

19th February 2018


If you’re planning a trip to India, there are some great events coming up. On the 1st and 2nd of March, locals and tourists alike will take to the streets to celebrate Holi, a Hindu spring festival also known as the ‘Festival of Colours’. Over these two days you’ll experience something truly unique, as you wander through the streets getting covered in colourful powders and water.

Holi is celebrated by many faiths, backgrounds and countries around the world, including parts of Europe and North America. So, here at Asda Money, we want to tell you more about it. If you’re heading to India over these dates, here’s what you should know about the history of the festival and how you can enjoy it whilst you’re there.

The History of Holi

Whilst it’s thought that Holi was first celebrated many centuries before Christ, there’s debate as to when it officially started. This ancient festival, originally known as ‘Holika’, celebrates the triumph of ‘good over evil’. It also marks the start of spring, where people give thanks for a good harvest.

Traditional festivities begin on the night of a full moon, known as the Purnima. People come together and gather around a bonfire, praying for all evil to be destroyed. This is because Holika, the sister of the demon King Hiranyakashipu, was killed in a fire. The next day is referred to as Rangwali Holi or Dhuleti, also known as the Festival of Colours, and there are many different stories surrounding why.

One Hindu story involves the God, Krishna, and his lover, Radha. Legend has it, Krishna was concerned that Radha would not love him, as he was embarrassed by his blue skin. His mother advised him to make them look alike, so he smeared coloured powder on her face, which is why today the coloured powder signifies love and new beginnings. Another story states that it originally involved the worship of the full moon by married women, who performed this special rite to ensure the health and happiness of their families.

How You Can Celebrate

Holi is celebrated in many areas around India, so where you visit depends on what you’ll experience. From traditional rituals to parties with DJs, there’s so much fun to be had. Delhi is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in India, and if you’re visiting over the Holi period, then you’re in for an exciting time.

As soon as you step outside, be prepared to be covered in coloured powders and water. If you can, you should try to get tickets for the Holi Moo Festival, previously known as the Holi Cow Festival. Held in New Delhi, this carnival uses non-toxic colours, and includes plenty of amazing street food and traditional Indian music to get you in the mood.

Another fantastic place to celebrate Holi is in the temple towns of Mathura and Vrindavan. As the birthplace and childhood home of Krishna, these towns focus on the traditional rituals of the festival. Celebrations begin a week in advance, with a tradition known as Phoolon Wali Holi, also known as the ‘throwing of the flowers’. Before Holi, the Banke Bihari Temple is decorated with thousands of spectacular flowers for visitors to admire, followed by a colourful procession.

Where to Stay

India is absolutely huge, and there are hundreds of airports that you could fly to depending on where you’re staying. If you’re staying in the popular tourist spot of Delhi, you can get flights from London Airports to New Delhi from around £160 each way. For those staying in Southern India, flights can be a little more expensive. Flights to Goa, for example, which is another extremely popular tourist destination, start at around £200 each way.

Accommodation in India is extremely cheap. If you’re staying in New Delhi, which is commonly known as an expensive area of India, you can stay at a three-star hotel for just 15275.31 rupees (£172)* for the week for two of you.

Of course, you can’t take a holiday to India without visiting one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal in Agra. If you’re staying in New Delhi, the most popular way to get to Agra is the new non-stop early morning train, getting you there in around 2 hours. You can get a first-class, air-conditioned seat for just 1,505 rupees (£16.95), or a general seat with air conditioning for 755 rupees (£8.50). The train runs every day, except for Fridays when the Taj Mahal is closed. If you fancy staying in Agra for the night, it’s very cheap – you can treat yourself to a stunning five-star hotel with a pool and spectacular views of the wonder for just 5595.03 rupees (£63.00) per night.

Wherever you decide to visit in India, there are a few things to think about before you travel. Be sure to take old clothes with you that you don’t mind getting dirty as, if you’re getting stuck into the Holi celebrations, you’re definitely going to get covered in colourful powders and water. Don’t forget to get comprehensive travel insurance too. Asda Money have a wide range of cover types available, including Value, Premium and Superior.

*The above figures are provided for indicative purposes only, and are based on the exchange rate correct as of 14:00 on 14/02/2018.

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