Holi, India's joyous festival of colors is one of the most anticipated celebrations in the Hindu calendar. While the ritual stems from Hindu mythology, the day is observed with as much abandon by non-Hindus as well. Celebrated annually on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna, the date of the festival varies. This year's event took place on March 6th. As per tradition, millions of Indians residing in the subcontinent and overseas took to the streets early in the morning. Chanting "Holi Hai" (It's Holi) they showered everyone, strangers, and friends, with vibrant colors.
Like all Asian festivals, there are numerous religious myths attached to Holi. The most popular is the one about Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons and his son Prahlada. According to ancient folklore, the monarch was unhappy with his son's affinity to Lord Vishnu, the protector of all humanity. He therefore tried hard to dissuade Prahlada from worshipping the God. But when nothing worked, he turned to his sister Holika, for help. Born with a power to resist heat, the demon goddess invited the young boy to join her in a large fire.
However, thanks to the powers bestowed on him by Lord Vishnu, Prahlada escaped unscathed while 'fireproof' Holika, was reduced to ashes. To commemorate this event, residents cleanse the air of evil spirits by igniting giant bonfires the night prior to Holi.
In the north Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, the festival celebrates the immortal love between the mischievous, fun-loving god Krishna and his beloved Radhika. While most residents observe the event for one day those living in Mathura, (where Krishna was born) and Vrindavan, (where Krishna spent most of his life), celebrate Holi for more than a week!
No matter what the myth, for most people, Holi is a day to forget all worries and past feuds and douse anyone they come across with colored powder, water-filled balloons and even large buckets of water. The fun continues until about noon. Then the crowds begin to thin out. Most head to nearby rivers and oceans for a quick rinse. Since no festival is complete without a feast, revelers indulge in some delicious food, before settling down for a well-deserved siesta!