Celebrated: By Hindus around the world, but especially in places associated with Lord Krishna
Celebrated on the day after the March full moon, Holi is also called the Festival of Colors and the Spring Festival. It commemorates the death of Holika, a female demon whose brother, Hiranyakashipu, was king of demons and burned her to death, and the immortality of Hiranyakashipu's son Prahlada, who was burned but did not die because of his devotion to Vishnu. Holika's sacrifice and Prahlada's survival demonstrate the power of good over evil, and the triumph of spring over winter.
Holi also celebrates the romance between Lord Krishna and his lover, Radha. Krishna and his friends traveled to Radha's house to tease her and her friends, and Krishna painted Radha's face so that she would be dark, as he was. Holi is thus a festival of pranks and painting people with bright colors, through a combination of colored powders and water.
It would be a gross oversimplification to say that Holi is the Hindu version of Mardi Gras, but parallels exist. During Holi, traditional rules don't apply. "Bura na mano,
Holi hai," is what people say: "Never mind, it's Holi!" Castes mix, people eat and drink too much, and bhang — Indian marijuana — is smoked, eaten and drunk. The festival usually lasts two days, but can last for weeks before and after in the Braj region, the land of Krishna.
Central Maine feels very far from any celebration of Holi, and I could use a little color in my life right now. But the last of the snow is melting, and the sky is more blue than gray, and it helps to know that spring has arrived in some parts of the world.