Festivals are a way of life for people that practice Hinduism. Not a month goes by without one. However, very few are as fun or as widely anticipated as Holi, the festival of colors. Celebrated annually at the beginning of spring, on the day following a full moon, this year's festivities will take place on March 17th.
As with all Hindu festivals, the origins of Holi are steeped in religion. Though there are many myths, the most popular is the story about Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons who was unhappy about his son Prahlada's affinity to Lord Vishnu, the creator of the Universe. After all attempts to dissuade him failed, the king turned to his sister Holika, for help. Born with the power to resist getting burned, Holika invited the young boy to join her inside a large fire. However, thanks to the powers of Lord Vishnu, Prahlada escaped unscathed, while 'fireproof' Holika, burned to ashes. To commemorate this event, huge bonfires are lit the night before Holi, to cleanse the air of evil spirits.
In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the festival is attributed to the immortal love between the mischievous fun-loving god Krishna and his beloved Radha. They are still so revered that the residents of Mathura, (where he was born) and Vrindavan, (where he spent most of his life), celebrate their love with great abandon, for almost two weeks!
No matter what the myth, the real fun for most of the country begins early on the day of Holi, when people take to the streets and greet friends and strangers with a joyful 'Happy Holi', before dousing them with colored powder, balloons and even, entire buckets of colored water. At about midday, the crowds start to peter out. Most revelers head to nearby rivers and oceans for a quick rinse before going home to reminisce about the fun day, enjoy a special feast and, take a well-deserved siesta.
Resources: wikipedia.org, goindia.about.com