Holi is called the Festival of Colors with good reason. Observed by Hindus in India, this messy and joyous festival welcomes spring with an explosion of color. People throw paint and powder in a rainbow of hues at one another. They soak each other with colored water shot from blowpipes and water pistols. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor, mingle with one another in the streets.
- A cloud of colored powder is tossed into the crowd.
- A market in India sells powdered paint in a rainbow of colors.
- Women smear colored powder on each other's faces during the celebration of Holi.
The festival is held at the start of spring, usually sometime in March. In most places the festival lasts two days. In certain villages, though, the celebrations go on for up to 16 days.
The name of the festival comes from a wicked woman in Hindu mythology. Holika, the sister of an evil king, plotted with her brother to kill the king's son, Prahlad. Holika tried to burn the young prince, a devoted follower of the Hindu god Krishna. Instead, with Krishna's help, the flames consumed Holika, while Prahlad remained unharmed. The night before Holi, people light bonfire to honor this victory of good over evil.
Another story explains why people spray each other with color. According to the tale, the monkey god Hanuman swallowed the sun and cast the world with darkness. The people didn't know what to do, so the other god suggested that the humans cover themselves with paint and squirt each other with colored water. The people obeyed. Seeing the people's antics, Hanuman started laughing, and out popped the sun.
Holi is celebrated in countries where there are large Hindu populations, such as Malaysia, Trinidad, and the United States.