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Holi, the joyous festival of colors, is one of India's most anticipated events. Though a predominantly Hindu festival, it transcends all religious barriers and is observed by people of all faiths. The fun holiday's date is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar. It will be observed on March 18 this year.
While the festivities vary from state to state, they inevitably end with a friendly color "fight." People of all ages take to the streets to douse strangers and friends alike with colored powder and water. After the last speck of color has been thrown, the crowds head home for a quick rinse, a delicious feast, and a much-needed siesta!
There are many folklores associated with Holi. One of the most popular attributes it to Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons. According to the legend, the ruler was unhappy about his son Prahlada's devotion to Lord Vishnu. After all attempts to dissuade him failed, the king turned to his sister Holika for help.
The evil goddess, who had a shawl to protect her from fire, asked Prahlada to join her on a burning pyre. But as soon as the young boy stepped into the fire, Holika's protective garment flew from her shoulders and covered him, leaving the demon unprotected from the flames. Shortly after, Lord Vishnu appeared and killed the king. The locals celebrated the victory of good over evil with colorful powder, and a fun tradition was born. To this day, many Indians light a bonfire on the eve of Holi to cleanse the air of evil spirits.
In the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Holi commemorates the love between the mischievous Hindu deity Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha. In Nandgaon, Krishna's birthplace, the festival is celebrated for an entire month. The highlight is Lathmar, or stick, Holi, which takes place a day before the main event. Legend has it that Lord Krishna and his friends went to the neighboring village of Barsana to tease Radha and her friends on this day, only to be chased away with sticks.
To reenact the event, the men from Nandgaon head to Barsana for a mock battle with the women on Lathmar Holi. The women "attack" the men with bamboo sticks, while the men protect themselves with shields and try to fight back with the only weapon available — colored powder! Those unfortunate enough to get captured by the feisty females are forced to dress in women's clothing and dance for their captors.
Regardless of the folklore believed, Holi is a festival of love and joy. On this day, people of all ages and cultures come together to have fun.
Resources: Wikipedia.org, Indiatvnews.com, CNN.com