Have you heard about the Hindu festival of Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors? Celebrating the arrival of spring, Holi is all about the joy of new beginnings, letting go of resentments, and enjoying fun and color. Traditionally, Holi falls in the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna, which usually coincides with March.
There are usually two days of celebrations: Holika Dahan, which happens on the night of the March full moon. On Holika Dahan, people will light a bonfire that symbolizes good over evil for puja (prayer) to burn away negative energies. The Festival of Colors takes place the next day. Keep reading to learn more about celebrating this festive and vibrant holiday!
Let’s Celebrate the Festival of Colors!
The Festival of Colors is a vivacious celebration where everyone comes out to play. This can out in the open or at private events. Before COVID, my daughter Beti and I attended an event hosted by the Main Line Indian Association. We had delicious Indian food, Beti had her face painted, we danced with the Community Bollywood Dance Project, and threw colored powders at one another while yelling “Holi hai!“
Abir or gulal is the colored powder people throw at each other which is symbolic. Blue represents the blue-skinned Hindu God Krishna, and green means new beginnings. Red is for the color of marriage. Hindu brides often wear red on their wedding days. Last but not least, yellow is a color used on joyful occasions. Some participants use pichkaris (water guns) or other items like water balloons.
Traditionally, people wear white knowing they will be covered with colors by the end of the day.
Traditional Holi Song
Music is a major part of this holiday. You’ll often see groups of musicians with drums and other instruments traveling throughout the festival. Hori Khele Raghuveera is a traditional Holi song that Bollywood modernized for the movie, Baghban. This video shows all the fun and excitement of Holi.
The Origins of Holi
The Holi festival has a cultural significance among Hindu traditions. It is spiritual and playful.
Hiranyakashyap is the legend of Holi who wanted to be worshipped by everyone. However, his son, Prahlad, chose to worship Lord Naarayana instead. Thus, the furious King Hiranyakashyap demanded that his daughter, Holika, who had the ability to survive in fire, take Prahlad into the fire. Prahlad survived due to his devotion to Lord Naarayana. Holika did not survive. Some people interpret the fire of Holi as a way to remember this story while others celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
The other story about Holi is related to Lord Krishna and his love, Radha. Lord Vishnu was described as having blue skin. He was always concerned that Radha would not accept him due to his skin color. So Radha allowed Lord Krishna to wear blue on her. As a result, today participants place color on each other during the Festival of Colors to honor their love.
Children’s Books About Holi
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Festival of Colors
My favorite children’s book about Holi is called Festival of Colors by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal. Vashti Harrison is the illustrator of this gorgeous book. In this sweet story, siblings Mintoo and Chintoo are busy gathering flowers to make beautiful powders for Holi. This story is great for little ones to learn about the colors and the history of Holi. Mintoo and Chintoo are excited to play in the Festival of Colors with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate spring and have fun!
There’s also Holi Colors, by Rina Singh. This book is great for young readers (baby – age 2). With vibrant photographs and rhyming text, young children will love exploring this book.
We Throw Color on Each Other
Slightly older children will love, We Throw Color on Each Other by Kavita G. Sahai. This book is great for early readers and features colorful illustrations. If children want to learn about the fun traditions of Holi, this is the book!
Let’s Celebrate Holi!
Maya & Neel’s Adventure Series includes books about South Asian culture and holidays. The book about Holi does not disappoint! Let’s Celebrate Holi! by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar (co-founders of Bollywood Groove) is great for 3-7-year-old kids. The book talks about the story of Holi, such as the colorful markets, the delicious food and drinks, and how it is celebrated in India.
Amma, Tell Me About Holi
Finally, Amma, Tell Me About Holi by Bhakti Mathur is a series of books that explains Hindu mythology to children. Lyrical and straightforward, the entire series provides a rich imagery and a deep understanding of traditional Hindu texts.
All of these children’s stories are one way to read your world and learn more about cultures around the globe. Are you looking forward to playing Holi this year? For more children’s book recommendations featuring strong Black and brown characters, check out my site at Beti Books! I love sharing media that represents our multicultural family, and I know your family will enjoy it, too.