Nepal’s Holi Festival

The ancient Hindu festival of Holi or Phagu, which means the sacred red powder, takes place late February or early March on a full moon and is celebrated throughout Nepal. Holi is known as the festival of colors, a time when colors are celebrated, and has been thought to be named after Holika, a mythical demoness.

The myth of Holi is based on Holika and her brother Hiranyakasyapu who was a sworn atheist. Together Holika and Hiranyakasyapu tried to come up with a plan to kill Pralhad, the son of Hiranyakasyapu because of the fact that Pralhad supported Lord Vishnu. However, with Lord Vishnu’s protection, Pralhad was saved from harm. Later Lord Brahma blessed Holika by giving her the ability to touch fire but not be harmed by it. It was then that Holika decided to grab hold of Pralhad and jump into a fire with him in the hope that he would burn to death. But Holika had failed to keep in mind the fact that she had been given this blessing to be used for good purposes only. While Pralhad was saved by his gods, Holika was burnt alive. Since then Holi celebrates the burning of Holika through the bonfire that symbolizes her death.

The festival lasts for a week and is participated in by everyone, by all ages, religions and castes and celebrated as a time of spring and youthful vigor. Families and friends all join in and take part in the wet and colorful festival, which is celebrated on the last day of the week, called Pune, which means full moon and signifies the approaching monsoon.

People either go by foot or by car and wander through the streets holding plastic packets of water mixed with different varieties of colored powder, which they use to throw at people as they pass by. It is not unusual to see people walking around with wet white clothing plastered with different colors on them from all the water balloons.

That week, before the last day is celebrated, there is not a lot that needs to be done as part of the festival. The first day they will put up the ceremonial bamboo pole or “chir”, which is fringed with many strips of cloth that represent good luck charms. The Holi festival will not take place until the pole is put up and then ends with the bamboo pole being burnt in a bonfire. The pole is meant to symbolize the tree that lord Krishna placed the clothing of the milkmaids’ while they swam in the Jamuna River.