India | Holi Festival Of Colors

Color and variety are synonymous with Indian culture, beliefs, and way of life. A country steeped in traditions, India charms and bedazzles all her visitors with a kaleidoscopic rendezvous.

Every street, every city and every corner has a story to tell — all you have to do is listen. But it is tradition, culture, and celebrations that truly bring this country together. One of the most symbolic in the country is called “Holi Festival Of Colors.”

Holi Festival of Colors

Holi The Festival Of Color

A festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil and a celebration of the arrival of spring and harvests to come. It’s the festival of colors, emotions, and happiness. And what better way to express yourself than with the vibrant colors of the rainbow?

The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name “Festival of Colors.” Come Holi, and the country is painted in mesmerizing hues of blues, yellows, magentas, greens, violets, and more. Clouds of colors dancing in the wind carry the message of love and happiness across walls, neighbors, and hearts.

Brightly colored powders are the mainstay of Holi, during which men, women, and children carry powders and liquid colors to throw and smear on the clothes and faces of neighbors and relatives. While dry powder colors are called “gulal,” colors mixed with water are called “rang.” Tables with bags of colors are lined up as neighbors and family await the others to enter the grounds. It’s a day to celebrate and let go — loud music, local brews, and fun-filled chatter are all essential elements of the celebrations.

Colorful Powder For Holi The Festival Of Colors
Plastic packets containing colorful powder for the traditional celebration of Holi Festival Of Colors

But most importantly, Holi is the day when you will see the streets and homes of India doused in almost every color imaginable. Each color has significance, religious or otherwise. And there is a color for almost every occasion, moment, or celebration. Each color symbolizes a force in life, and thus color and life are inseparable.

While the most popular colors are the brightest — blue, yellow, red, purple, pink, and green — there are colors that are conspicuously absent, traditionally. These include black and white.

Color Symbolism Of Holi

Though white symbolizes a sense of purity, it is also a color of mourning. Widows in India, unlike in their western counterparts, retire to a white-only dress code. And while black is considered ugly, evil, and undesirable, it is relied upon heavily to ward off evil, as is evident in the ceremony of putting a black dot on a new-born baby’s face to ward off the evil eye.

During the early days, the “gulal” colors of Holi were made at home using flowers of the tree, otherwise called the “Flame of the Forest.” The flowers, once plucked, were dried in the sun and then ground to a fine dust. The powdered dust, once mixed in water, gave way to the most brilliant hue of saffron-red. The saffron-red pigment and colored powdered talc called “aabir” were the mainstay at Holi celebrations, long before the chemical colors of today.

People Celebrating Holi Festival Of Colors

Squirting colored water, throwing colored water balloons, and throwing fistfuls of powdered colors at friends, family, and even strangers is not considered out of place or offensive, and is in fact a part of the festival. Children and teenagers line up at strategic vantage points, armed with buckets of colored water and little water balloons, waiting to attack unassuming passers-by.

Every color means something special in the Indian psyche. Red, for instance, is a mark of matrimony; brides in India wear red most often at their wedding since it symbolizes fertility, love, beauty, and, most importantly, is a sign of a married woman. It is considered custom in the ways of Hinduism to wear red powder-Kumkum on the peak of their forehead. Most often considered the prerogative of a married woman, a red dot is worn between the eyebrows to symbolize blissful matrimony.

Yellow is yet another important color in the Indian psyche. Yellow is almost synonymous with turmeric, an ingredient of great importance at auspicious functions across religions. It is perhaps revered more so because of its medicinal use right from the ancient times. Turmeric is used even today for the treatment of inflammatory and digestive disorders.

Holi festival of color celebrations in India

Other colors that tease the skies on Holi include blue, the color of the revered god in Hinduism, Lord Krishna. Green symbolizes new beginnings, harvest, and fertility, and is also the sacred color of the Muslim community in India. Saffron is often associated with Hinduism, piety, and strength.

Today, keeping pace with technological advance, the primary colors used initially have been supplemented by metallic colors and various unimaginable shades and mixtures. But the spirit of the festival remains the same. It cuts across all classes, castes, and religions and brings people together. Together, they celebrate the onset of spring by filling their day and life with the colors of joy, prosperity, happiness, and peace.

The colors of India, though diverse, speak the language of its people, from the red and ochre walls of village huts to the pristine white of the Taj Mahal. Color, art, and culture in the subcontinent have surpassed all odds and continue to hold the country together in a spell binding tryst of hues. Holi is a festival celebrated in great revelry and belief, where citizens of the country paint the skies and their surroundings in the magnificent colors of joy.

You also might be interested in these articles:

India | A Country of Symbolic ColorsIndia | Bollywood Colors The WorldIndia | The Color Red — Simplicity, Purity and Candor India | Colorful Jaipur, Rajasthan The ‘Pink City’India | Colorful Jodhpur Rajasthan – The Blue City

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  1. Great post. Holi is a fun filled and very colourful day! I also wrote about Holi on my blog.

    • Thanks for stopping by my article on Holi and letting me know about yours. It is such a fun and colorful celebration that I love knowing more about it. Best, Kate

  2. Hi, Kate
    I really like the way you have described the feel of holi with colours.

  3. Alice Slatton Campbell says

    Are the colored powders and colored water safe?

    • I believe today that people are more concerned with health issues related to the celebration and are making safe powders. Still I would not feel comfortable participating since there is no way to know for certain the source of the powder others are throwing and I don’t like the idea of inhaling or ingesting something that is potentially dangerous.

  4. The color powder is safe and does wash out of your clothes if it doesn’t get too wet. Also you want to make sure to get it Made in the USA because it won’t contain mold like some of the product from India.

  5. Hello!! Firstly, can I just say… Ohhhh!! How you make me wish for the ability to travel so I can attend such a festival! I can imagine so clearly the feeling of happiness, of the sheer joy, one must experience during Holi! Secondly, I am starting my own cosmetics business, and I am looking all over for materials and ideas to my business that little bit extraordinary, so I was wondering can these coloured powders be used as eyeshadows, blushers, lipsticks, and the like? You see, I am catering to a rather specific market, and one that adores colours and shades of all, most particularly those of vibrant and vivid hue.

    Thank you in advance, Judy xx

    • Ohhh, Judy, I hope you get to visit India one day and experience the joy and happiness for yourself.

      I don’t know how these powders would work as cosmetics but I bet one of the US companies that makes them would be happy to speak to you about that. Let me know if you decide to incorporate the colors of Holi into your line. Best, Kate

  6. Your articles are really interesting.they are just amazing.i hope i could have translate your article into Hindi language …. But amazing article

  7. I am so thankful that you described Holi in such detail. Do you have a address or phone number to get the powder in the US? And is there a specific day of the year Holi takes place. I know you said to welcome spring. Thank you again Kate. I can’t wait to experience Holi for myself.

    • Glad you enjoyed the article about Holi festival. I see many of these powders on Amazon but do check to make sure that they are non-toxic. It is usually in March. For 2016 it is March 23rd/24th. There is also a group that puts on Holi Festivals in the USA during the spring. You can see the dates here

  8. Are the colored powders and colored water safe?

    • There are sources of safe powders and colored water but check carefully. You don’t want to breathe in anything toxic or have it come in contact with your skin.

  9. Kathy wright says

    I just returned from India and participated in the festival. It was all as you described and more! I had often heard people say negative things about the ugliness of India and its lifestyle. I say, with what eyes did they look? With my eyes , all I saw was color! The women in their sarees,even in the smallest village were beautifully colorful!

    • That sounds incredible, Kathy. One day I hope to be able to be there during the Holi Festival. I have traveled to India many times and I always enjoy my time there. It is a feast for the eyes of any color lover.

  10. I really liked your article on a color festival of India which brings Happiness. I have also written an Article on Colors

  11. Great article! I love color! I think colors express emotion and seeing the colored powders on tv just fascinated me. I was totally mesmerized. I’m just a simple country girl who has never been out of the state of Tennessee. Thanks to t.v. and the internet I get to travel lol. When I googled the vivid colored powders I came right to your article. Thanks so much for the education.

  12. Thanks for your article. I’ve sent it along to my Facebook group (7 friends) who are going to India in March and will experience Holi Festival. Great information!

    • Its nice to hear and most welcome to your friends in India. Suggest them to Play Safe Holi with Natural and Herbal Colors available at

  13. Holi is the best festival to enjoy in India. Play safe holi with Natural and Herbal Colors available online at :

  14. can someone help me. I need to no what is the rightful significant of the colour of Phagwa.
    like red , blue , yellow , etc.

  15. nice words about Holi… Somethings new to add into my knowledge thank you for sharing this. Holi special recipes only on fooodiz holi special mojito moktails see at website and watch videos on YouTube. subscribe channel on YouTube at