Celebrating Diversity Blog: Holi – the Festival of Colors

March 1, 2022
three students covered in colored paint holding each other outdoors


About Holi

Holi, also known as the Festival of Color, is a Hindu holiday that originated in India, but is now celebrated all over the world. The festival calendar dates change year to year because it is based on the lunar calendar. It begins the night of the full moon of the Hindu month of Phalguna. This year, Holi celebrations begin on March 18, 2022. Depending on regional traditions, celebrations can begin the day before with a bonfire as part of Holika Dahan.

Common activities to celebrate Holi include prayer, Holika Dahan (bonfires), throwing gulal (colored powder) and colored water on each other, and visiting others to share food and drink. The holiday is seen as a time to embrace equality and renew relationships, as personal distinctions are paused and everyone becomes unified through color and festive fun. 

Holi has three main inspirations for its celebrations, which include spring’s arrival, the story of Krishna and Radha, and the story of Holika and Prahalad. These provide themes of positive change and renewal, love and compassion, and the triumph of good over evil to Holi festivities.

The arrival of spring offers a reminder during Holi that just as spring welcomes a new beginning from winter, those celebrating should also be willing to start fresh and look forward positively, forgetting and forgiving previous resentments. It also promotes a sense of community for many, as it aligns with preparation for spring harvests.

The elements of love and compassion are present in Holi celebrations in honor of the story of Krishna and Radha. Krishna, who was an incarnation of Hindu God Lord Vishnu, enjoyed showing his care for others through friendly teasing and one day, he threw colors on his friend Radha in a playful expression of his love and soon everyone joined the colorful fun. The story serves as a reminder that everyone is equal and should be treated as such, regardless of any physical differences.

The legend of Holika and Prahlad relays the message of the prevailing power of good over evil in the survival of Prince Prahlad. Prahlad’s father, the evil King Hiranyakashipu, demanded that his kingdom worship him instead of God, but Prahlad’s devotion to the Hindu God Lord Vishu did not waiver. Frustrated with his son, the king asked his demonic sister Holika who was impervious to fire for help burning Prahlad in a fire pit. Prahlad, fully surrendered to Vishnu, fearlessly entered the fire and was protected by Vishnu, who also reversed Holika’s power so that she burned instead. This story also encourages those celebrating Holi to be humble, kind, and tolerant throughout negative situations which are part of life. 



two students covered in colored paint holding each other outdoors
a student painting with purple paint using their hands



When searching for Holi events, it is very easy to find many invitations to join a Color Run, which involves the color-throwing activity that Holi is best known for. As Holi is ultimately a festival that celebrates bringing people of all backgrounds together in compassion and care, it is in no way limited to only Hindu participation. However, it is important that key elements of the festival are presented while recognizing Hinduism, India, and the stories connected to Holi, otherwise Holi’s ancient spiritual traditions become culturally appropriated and commercialized.


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Thank you for learning about Holi with ISSO and DEI Advisory Group! We strive for an inclusive CCS community and encourage feedback: diversity@collegeforcreativestudies.edu