Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. It is observed in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, and countries with major Hindu population like Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, United Kingdom, United States, Mauritius, and Fiji. It is also known as Phagwah, Doḷajāta in Orissa and Dol Jatra (Bengali) or Basantotsav (West Bengal).
Holi is celebrated at the end of winter season i.e. spring, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), (Phalgun Purnima), which usually falls in the later part of February or March. In Mathura, Vrindavan, in Braj region, Hathras, Aligarh and Agra, Holi is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi), in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna.
Holi ,originally, a festival of good harvests, is celebrated by throwing scented powder and perfume, at each other. Bonfires, called Holika Dahan, (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi, are lit, after which holika dahan prayers are said and praises offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape of young Prahlad, accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, took him into the fire. Holika was burnt, but Prahlad, a staunch Vishnu devotee escaped, even without a scratch. Holika Dahan is referred to as Kama Dahanam in South India.
Holi lasts about two days. It lowers the rigidity of social norms like age difference, gender, status, and caste. The rich and poor, women and men, play together, on this joyous day. No polite behavior is expected and the atmosphere is filled with excitement, fun and joy.
In ancient days, people sprayed coloured waters at each other, using bamboo syringes. Today, in ancient Bengal. it is celebrated as a Gaudiya Vaishnav festival (Vaishnaviya Tantra). People go to Krishna temples, apply red colour to the icon and then distribute the red coloured powder or Abir along with malpua prasad to family and friends. Red signifies the colour of passion and Lord Krishna is the king of desires. The ritual signifies the culmination of all our desires at the feet of Lord Krishna.
In Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by making human pyramids. In Kanpur Ganga Mela or Holi Mela is held. In Gorakhpur, the festival promotes brotherhood called `Holi Milan’.
The Kumaoni Holi of the Kumaon is a musical affair, like Baithki Holi, the Khari Holi and the Mahila Holi starting from Basant Panchmi. In the Baithki Holi and Khari Holi songs have a touch of melody, fun and spiritualism and based on classical ragas (Kalyan, Shyamkalyan, Yaman etc.). Hence, it called Nirvan Ki Holi.
In Bihar, Holi called Phagwa is celebrated by lighting bonfires with dung cakes, wood of Araad or Redi tree and Holika tree, grains from the fresh harvest and unwanted wood leaves in the bonfire. Intoxicating bhang, liquor and ganja, are consumed Orissa celebrates Holi in Jagannath temple. Goans call it Śigmo or Śiśirotsava.