Holi India – Celebrate the Festival of Colors 2021

Written By: The Planet D

Holi in India is known as the Festival of Colors and it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This Hindu festival takes place across India as revelers throw colored powder to celebrate the triumph over good and evil.

Nowhere is Holi celebrated with more spirit than Mathura, the birthplace of the Hindu God, Lord Krishna. We celebrated Holi here and this is what it was like.

Holi India – Festival of Colors

It was march in India and were traveling in Punjab at the time wondering we should celebrate Holi. That is when our friends Julian and Becca told us that one of the best places to celebrate Holi is in Mathura, India. So we hopped on a train and took the 12-hour journey to celebrate the Festival of Colors in the birthplace of Lord Krishna 600 km away. And I’m glad we did!

What is Holi Festival?

dancing at Holi Festival Mathura India
Holi Celebrations in India

The celebration of Holi is a Hindu festival observed across India every year. It celebrates the arrival of spring and it signifies the triumph of good over evil. While it is a Hindu festival, most Indians observe Holi. The Festival of Colors is such a vibrant and festive occasion how can you not want to take part?

During the day of Holi in India, it doesn’t matter what your caste, creed, or religion is, on this day, the India people come together as one as they throw colored powder and water through the air. When everyone is covered with the colors of the rainbow, their skin, hair, and clothing look the same creating a feeling of inclusiveness.

When is Holi Celebrated?

In 2021 the Celebration of Holi takes place on March 28 and March 29.

The dates of Holi celebrations change every year because Holi is celebrated on the eve of the full moon and the full moon day of the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna (March). This day marks the beginning of Spring. But the celebrations have extended to several days beforehand. During our time at the Holi festival in India, the colored powder and water were being spread in full force four days in advance with music blaring and people dancing in the streets.

Holika Dahan

holi india festival powder piles
You can buy all the colorful powder you need from vendors

For several days leading up to the Holi festival, people gather wood to make large bonfires that are lit on the eve of Holi known as Holika Dahan. Holi Dahan happens every year on the evening of Purnima in the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna. (aka The full moon in March and night before Holi) Holika Dahan celebrates the death of the Hindu Demon, Holika, and the victory of good over evil.

In Hinduism, the demon Holika was the sister of the Demon King, Hiranyakashipu (Hiranyakashyap) who was given immunity to fire by the Gods. Hiranyakashipu asked Holika to kill his son Prahlada by burning him alive. He hated Prahlada because of his devotion to the Hindu God, Lord Vishnu and made several attempts to murder him. But Prahlada survived.

Since the Gods had given Holika immunity to fire, she tried to kill Prahalada by sitting in a fire with him trying to burn him to death. Instead, the Gods punished Holika for using her powers for evil. She burned to death instead while Prahalada lived to rule as a wise king.

During the evening of the Holika Dahan festival people gather to light the fires to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. The fires burn late into the night and people are out dancing and celebrating to the wee hours of the morning. The entire country of India is alive with energy.

Holi in Mathura

deb at Holi India
The colored powder gets everywhere

On the day of Holi, we wandered aimlessly through the streets of Mathura because we weren’t sure where we should start. There were crowds gathering along the sidewalks, but we weren’t quite sure where the epicenter of the festivities took place.

Luckily, we stumbled across a small courtyard where a man caught our attention. He beckoned us to join the festivities inside. Never being ones to refuse an invitation, we accepted. Everyone welcomed us with open arms and smears of color.

We all came together under the colors of Lord Krishna and blended into the crowd. The Hindu God, Lord Krishna is portrayed with blue skin but the festival represents the rainbow of colors for each caste.

Holi is known as the Festival of Colors and the vibrant colors of Holi represent love. The “Holi Head of the Temple” told us that Holi is a time for India people to let go of prejudices, creeds, castes, and discrimination. We certainly felt the love at the Holi Celebrations in Matura

dave drumming during holi celebrations in India
Dave drumming during Holi Celebrations

I believe they wanted us to have the best time possible. They even had Dave join in drumming at the Head of the Temple. The men loved holding Dave’s hands high in the air as they danced and laughed in a circle. During this festival, the men and women didn’t hold hands; instead, they only touched the same sex. Everyone had the utmost respect as children and adults alike threw handfuls of colored powder and water overhead.

Everyone in the temple wanted to dance with us. Women took turns dancing with me, swinging me around one after another and men took turns dancing with Dave. It was exhausting yet exhilarating all at once! As the only westerners in the temple, we were somewhat of a novelty, but the people of India are genuinely welcoming and friendly. If you celebrate the Holi in India, you will have one of the most memorable travel experiences of your life!

Where is Holi Celebrated?

We celebrated Holi in Mathura but Holi is celebrated across India. Northern India celebrates Holi with more vigor, but it is catching on in other parts of the country and around the world too.

  1. Mathura is the number one place to celebrate Holi as it is the birthplace of the Hindu God Lord Krishna
  2. Jaipur – The elephant festival is celebrated on the eve of Holi here
  3. Udaipur is India’s most beautiful city and the streets come alive during the festival.
  4. Goa – South India doesn’t celebrate as much as the North, but because Goa is a popular tourist destination, Holi is celebrated.
  5. Hampi – this was one of our favorite places in India and they have started celebrating to appease tourists
  6. Mumbai is another great place to celebrate with the Holi Pot competition to become the Holi King.
  7. Delhi – The Holi Cow festival makes Delhi during this time.
  8. In West Bengal – The focus more on celebrating the eternal romance of Radha and Krishna
  9. Agra, in Uttar Pradesh also celebrates so if you find yourself exploring India’s most famous attraction, The Taj Mahal you can join in.
  10. West Bengal –  The West Bengal Dol Jatra is celebrated on the same day as Holi. It is similar to Holi and festival goers also throw colored water to celebrate Lord Krishna and Radha.

From Agra, it is an easy trip to Mathura. Mathura is located just 50 km north of Agra just two hour by train from Delhi, an ideal location. But Holi is celebrated in all parts of India so chances are you’ll be able to join the celebrations no matter where you are in the country.

12 Tips for Celebrating Holi in India

india holi
Holi Celebrations in Hindu Temple
  1. Mathura is where we celebrated Holi, but no matter where you are in India, it will be celebrated.
  2. Go to local parks and residential neighborhoods, or ask at your guest house where Holi is being celebrated nearby.
  3. Don’t wear anything that you want to keep. Every piece of clothing will be ruined and you will have to throw it out.
  4. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts so as to have minimal skin exposed.
  5. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, but buy cheap ones that you don’t mind throwing away afterward.
  6. Take off all watches and jewelry. (as you can see, I didn’t and my watch was trashed)
  7. Ladies, wear your hair back or wear a scarf. My hair was pink for weeks.
  8. Use only waterproof camera gear: Holi is messy. It’s not just water, but thick powder. It can ruin cameras.
  9. Put everything in waterproof dry bags and only bring them out when necessary. Even GoPros can get ruined.
  10. Don’t carry any valuables.
  11. Make sure to have a meeting place should you get lost. The crowds are huge and you may become separated.
  12. As a foreigner, you are sometimes targeted by overzealous festival-goers. They can be a little too aggressive, and some men can cross the line and grab and touch women a little too aggressively. I am sad to report that women are often groped during Holi, myself and my friend Becca included. Men can be aggressive when throwing foam or powder in your face, so be on your guard.

A word of advice, if you are going to celebrate Holi at one of the popular celebration destinations, book your hotel in advance. When we got off the train, we couldn’t believe the crowds! It is overwhelming and we had a difficult time finding a hotel.

  • Hotels are quite reasonable in Mathura you can search TripAdvisor for hotels and reviews.
  • We also suggest Booking.com, it is good to compare rates and reviews to make an informed decision.

Festival of Colors 

festival of holi clean up
We Celebrated Holi for 6 straight hours

It was not a fun process cleaning up after Holi. The sun was hot and the mix of colored foam, water, and thick powders hadd baked on our skin. The mixture of colored powder and water-stained our skin and hair, and we had to scrub until our skin is raw to eventually look close to normal.

It took over an hour to clean ourselves up with the bucket and scoop bath and the four of us never quite made it back to our former selves. My hair was pink for weeks, and our feet? Well, our feet never did recover from Holi.

We tossed our clothes in the trash and found bits of powder in every crevasse of our body for days to come. But it was worth every moment. To take part in Holi while enjoying with great friends is something that we will never forget! Holi Festival is a once in a lifetime experience.

See More Festivals of the world

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holi festival tips

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

43 thoughts on “Holi India – Celebrate the Festival of Colors 2021”

  1. I am from India. Holi is festival of color. It is one of my favorite festival after Diwali. Thank a lot for writing about India’s beauty, culture and festival which will remove false thinking about India…. once again thank you very much… keep on…

    Reply
  2. This is very intersting and colourful festival. We do celebrate in Nepal as well with lots of different colours. I love this festival.

    Reply
  3. Holi is not complete without vibrant Gulal, Colours, Dhol, DJ and Unlimited Fun. Thank you very much for sharing a great information. I appreciate your time and effort in your work.

    Reply
  4. Holi is really colorful festival which is more enjoyable while play with flowers, herbal colors but you must enjoy whenever you visit in India during this time

    Reply
  5. I remembering watching this festival on The Amazing Race last year. Everyone was getting so angry with the paint, and I was thinking “What a blast that would be!”

    Reply
  6. Oh. Wow. What an inspiration. I would leave now if I could. I really admire your hard work on this and appreciate how thorough you were. Here I am chained behind my computer. Thanks for taking me on a mini-vacation!

    Reply
  7. This post about the festival of color or better termed as Holi is so amazing.
    I shall recommend this to my fellow class mates.
    Simply wanted to stop by and say thanks for sharing such an amazing history from India.

    Reply
  8. Hi,
    Thanks for the great article!
    The Holi festival has a cultural significance among various Hindu traditions of the Indian subcontinent

    Reply
  9. I had been to India but didn’t get a chance to play Holi. I would love to be a part of this colorful festival.

    Reply
  10. Welcome to India!
    We are glad you had fun.

    I also want to share a folklore behind this festival. A day before the colorful celebration, at night you might have encountered a pyre and people praying around it.

    It is to commemorate the demise of “HOLIKA,” an evil aunt of PRAHLAD, a young child and a follower of Lord Vishnu. HOLIKA took the child along with her in the pyre in order to kill him, but because of the grace of god, instead of child, she burnt to death.

    The people were happy to get rid of an evil person and the next day played colors to cherish the peace they found. 🙂

    Guys, if you happen to visit India again, also try to attend the Holi in Vrindavan. They play with flowers and the aura is too great.

    Reply
  11. I have enjoyed this festival many times in my life. it just always creates a wow moments to keep in memories of celebrations.

    Reply
  12. Festivals are one of the major part of the cultural country like India. And Holi comes among the best festivals. It is a colorful festival. I am glad that you have enjoyed a lot and I hope you love our culture. I am thanking you to visit India and you are always welcome here. Travel in India anytime and enjoy several festivals. Plan a holiday trip to India this season.

    Reply
  13. Photographs speak that how much fun you guys had in holi festival. It is really a beautiful and most enjoyable festival of India.

    Reply
  14. Wow smile on the face of people celebrating holi an amazing, i like all pictures that you share on post, very nice thanks.

    Reply
  15. Stunning photos! I’m disappointed that I won’t be spending Holi in Nepal this year – I arrive five days too late!

    Reply
  16. So incredible! I’ve been to India once before, and am heading back again this year. I think next time I need to organise around the holi festival! What an amazing experience X

    Reply
  17. I’ve seen some pictures from this event, but never actually read the description of the event (and what happen with the paint cleaning) like this. Looks like so much fun!! I hope when I finally reach India, it will coincide with this event!
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Top 3 Pieces of Traveling Advice by Travelers Around the World =-.

    Reply
  18. AWESOME!!!!
    I love both the visual and written aspect here…lol
    I remembering watching this festival on The Amazing Race last year. Everyone was getting so angry with the paint, and I was thinking “What a blast that would be!”
    Reminds of when you two went to the water festival…Holy Moly, lol
    It’s great to see you so thrilled and with such a zest for life.
    Miss you guys, but SEE YOU SOON!
    xo

    Reply
    • It reminded us of the water festival too except much dirtier. Walking in the water mixed with cow crap wasn’t too much fun:-)

      Reply