Holi, one of the most familiar Indian festivals, is celebrated at the end of February or early in March as a way to welcome the spring and rejoice over the triumph of good over evil. While Holi has its roots in Northern India and Nepal, it's now celebrating all over the world.
In Holi's most visible and vibrant tradition, celebrants purchase colorful powders from street market vendors. On the day of the festival, young and old alike take to the streets, flinging these rainbow-hued powdered paints at each other. For this one day, age, race, social class and gender don't matter. Everyone comes together for fun in the streets.
In a deeply devout country like India, Holi too has religious roots. One variation of the Holi story tells of a young and mischevious Krishna throwing colorful powders on the milkmaids as a practical joke. It's this spirit of lighthearted fun that makes Holi such an appealing celebration worldwide.
Another tells of Prince Prahlad, a devotee of Vishnu whose own aunt tried to destroy him in a fire. Due to his devotion, he walked out of the fire alive while his evil aunt perished. From this legend comes the tradition of lighting a bonfire the night before Holi.
In India, cities with a strong connection to Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, tend to have the most extravagant Holi celebrations. In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, the towns of Barsana, Mathura, Nandgaon and Vrindavan draw tourists from around the world to witness and participate in the fun.
Thanks to the Indian Diaspora, Holi celebrations have popped up all over the world, wherever Indian communities have settled. Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain and Guyana have some of the biggest celebrations.
Luckily, you don't have to fly all the way to India – or even outside of the United States – to experience Holi. Communities and college campuses around the country are starting to host their own Holi celebrations, the biggest of which takes place in Spanish Fork, Utah, where members of the Hare Krishna Temple go through more than 120,000 bags of colored powder.
Since Holi is a time when many social customs and taboos go out the window and people are brought together, it's become somewhat of a celebration of love and togetherness. Instead of gifting chocolate and flowers, young couples toss powders and colored liquids at each other.
It may sound obvious, but if you're in India (or anywhere else with a sizable Holi celebration) expect to get dirty. While there's been a move to start using more natural ingredients for the colored paints, many still stain. If you don't want to get dirty, don't go out.
In India, foreigners seem to be the biggest targets for colorful bursts of powder, so be prepared. While the spirit of the celebration is positive and uplifting, some celebrants are known to take the revelry a little too far, so always go out in groups and look out for each other. Most of all, have fun!