Holi is a festival of colours in Hinduism. Holi is celebrated in India, where the people are coloured (see photo). Holi is also known as Phagwah or Indian School Spirit Day. The festival is so significant in India that even the call centers close their doors. The festival lasts somewhere between 3 and 16 days and is celebrated anywhere between February and March.
In scripture, a deity named Hiranyakagibberish was given a boon by Brahma, which provided he could not be killed "during the day or night, inside the house or outside." Thereafter, he took great care not to be on the doorstep at dusk. He was harder to get rid of than a trade union. Then, like every villain with a grant of immortality, he began to demand that everyone on Earth respect him as their Sugar Daddy.
However, his own son Prahlada continued to worship Vishnu, as well as Alex Rodríguez, despite the steroids thing. Prahlada was a rebellious teenager who resented the way his father walked into his bedroom without knocking. The father made the only logical decision: that it was time to kill his son. Skipping all the obvious methods, Hiranyakashipoopter tried poisoning, starvation, and trampling his son with elephants, each time failing worse than Wile E. Coyote did against Road Runner.
In the final episode (directed by a past incarnation of M. Night Shyamalan), he ordered Prahlada into the tandoori oven, accompanied by Prahlada's Aunt Holika, whose own boon was immunity from burning to death. But, wouldn't you know it? Prahlada was unscathed while Holika went up in smoke. Holika got the consolation prize of having everyone celebrate a festival with her name on it. Prahlada's prize was pwnage of his father yet again, which was sweeter, and much preferable than being burned to a crisp, though the latter does save on cremation costs.
So much for the legend. In reality, Hindus had a serious inferiority complex from not having a big holiday festival as the big-boy religions do. Hindus traveling abroad discovered the "holiday" tradition and brought it back to India, along with their signature mis-translation of the foreign word, abbreviating it into "Holi."
The Indian people, having no concept of fun and enjoyment, grew fond of Holi and vowed to make it their own, personalizing it by giving it a variable and unpredictable duration. But its beginning they timed to the phase of the moon, like a Third World version of Easter. The doubtful folklore set out above was invented to make it have something to do with the rest of Hinduism. But many celebrants prefer the connection to Easter, and some of these temporarily give up betel nuts and chew Skittles instead.
Events and rituals
Being one of India's few opportunities to experience joy, the materials available for celebration are limited. Originally, the festival's inventors had intended to have people douse themselves in holy water, but because trade negotiations to source it from the Catholic Church broke down, the participants in the Phagwah substituted coloured powder. It quickly became a fashion choice among those wishing to display their flair and swag in the Indian population on a day when they weren't being oppressed by the caste system.
The original script instructed festival-goers to build platforms out of cow dung, coat them in sticks, and then rant like crazed old men about casting away devils. However, this proved unpopular, and instead they returned to implementing foreign ideas with a veneer of originality.
One such activity involves the placement of a
piñata pot of buttermilk as a bunch of boys cheerlead chant loudly while assembling human pyramids to try and reach and break it, whilst girls chuck coloured water at them. Then the whole lot runs off, warning people that the sky is falling. In another imported ritual based on observation of Western families, a wife beats her brother-in-law before the poor sucker runs away, only to bring sweets back to try and appease the crazed woman. While it seems perverse to Westerners, Indians see it as involving much more joy than either spouse ever gets in married life.