Essential Guide to the 2022 Holi Festival in India

Holi celebrations in Jaipur, India.
urbancow/Getty Images  

The Holi festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, notably the burning and destruction of a demoness named Holika. This was made possible with the help of the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu.

Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from the childhood antics of Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.

In parts of India, Holi is also celebrated as a spring festival to provide thanksgiving for an abundant harvest season.

1:36
Watch Now: How to Celebrate Holi Festival in India

When Is Holi Celebrated?

Holi takes place according to the Hindu lunar calendar. The festival begins with Holika Dahan on the night of the full moon (purnima) in March each year and concludes with the throwing of colors the following day. In 2022, Holika Dahan is on March 17, and Holi is on March 18.

The festival happens a day earlier in West Bengal and Odisha, where it is celebrated as Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima on the same day as Holika Dahan. In addition, festivities commence a week or so earlier in some parts of India (such as Mathura and Vrindavan).

Where Is Holi Celebrated?

Festivities occur throughout India but are more exuberant in some areas than others. To get an idea of what happens and where check out these top ways and places to celebrate Holi in India.

Traditional Holi celebrations are the biggest in the Brij (also known as Braj) region of Uttar Pradesh, about three hours from Delhi, where Lord Krishna is believed to have grown up. Mathura and Vrindavan are at the center of this region. The festivities extend for more than a week there.

Rajasthan is a popular Holi destination for foreign tourists, particularly Pushkar, Jaipur, and Udaipur. Many backpacker hostels organize Holi parties for guests there. Rajasthan Tourism also holds a special Holi festival in Jaipur.

How Is Holi Celebrated?

People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers. Bhang, a paste made from cannabis plants, is traditionally consumed as part of celebrations.

Special Holi events with music, rain dances, and colors are organized in large cities across India—particularly in Delhi and Mumbai. It's possible to celebrate Holi with a local Indian family in Delhi and in Jaipur through Tripadvisor.

What Rituals are Performed?

The emphasis of Holi rituals is on the burning of demoness Holika. On Holika Dahan, large bonfires are lit to mark the occasion. As well as conducting a special puja (worship ritual), people sing and dance around the fire and walk around it three times. In some parts of India, people even walk across the hot coals of the fire! Such firewalking is considered to be sacred. One place where it happens is Saras village near Surat in Gujarat.

The destruction of Holika is mentioned in the Hindu text, the Narada Purana. Holika's brother, the demon King Hiranyakashyap, apparently wanted her to burn his son, Prahlad, because he followed Lord Vishnu and didn't worship him. Holika sat with Prahlad in her lap, in the burning fire, because it was thought that no fire could harm her. However, Prahlad survived because his devotion to Lord Vishnu protected him. Holika was instead charred to death.

A priest in Falen village, near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, says his village is where the mythological tale of Holika took place. Local priests have been walking through the raging fire unscathed for hundreds of years. Since they don't get hurt, they're considered an incarnation of Prahlad and blessed by him. The priest admitted that he undertakes a lengthy period of meditation and preparation before the remarkable feat.

Unlike most other festivals in India, there aren't any religious rituals on the primary day of Holi. It's simply a day for having fun!

Holi bonfire at Falen, Uttar Pradesh.
Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images

Holi in Odisha and West Bengal

Like Holi, the Dol Jatra celebrations in West Bengal and Odisha are dedicated to Lord Krishna. However, the mythology is different. The festival celebrates the love that Krishna is believed to have expressed to Radha on that day. Idols of Radha and Krishna are carried around in procession on specially decorated palanquins. Devotees take turns swinging them. The idols are also smeared with colored powder. Of course, colors are thrown at people on the streets too! Festivities begin six days beforehand on Phagu Dashami (March 13, 2022).

What to Expect During the Celebrations

Holi is a very carefree festival that's great fun to participate in if you don't mind getting wet and dirty. You'll end up saturated in water, with color all over your skin and clothes. Some of it doesn't wash out quickly, so be sure to wear old clothes. It's also recommended that you rub hair oil or coconut oil into your skin beforehand to prevent the color from absorbing.

Holi Safety Information

As Holi provides an opportunity to disregard social norms and generally "let loose," women have reported street harassment, unwanted touching, assault, and rape during Holi events and festivals. If you plan on going out into the streets on Holi, do so early in the morning, and aim to be back in your hotel by midday. Many hotels hold special Holi parties for their guests in a safe environment.

Expect to have colored powder and water rubbed and thrown onto your face, mouth, and ears. Keep your mouth shut and protect your eyes as much as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • When is Holi?

    Holika Dahan is on March 17, 2022, and Holi is on March 18, 2022.

  • What is Holi?

    Holi is a festival that commemorates the victory of good over evil, notably the burning and destruction of a demoness named Holika.

  • How is Holi celebrated?

    People spend the day smearing colored powder all over each other's faces, throwing colored water at each other, having parties, and dancing under water sprinklers.

Was this page helpful?