Key facts about the Hindu Holi festival

Holi celebrates the coming of Spring. There are several stories associated with Holi.

Lord Krishna

Some Hindus believe the origin of the festival lies with Lord Krishna. In Hindu writings he is described as a very mischievous young boy. Stories include throwing coloured water over the maids and even stealing their clothes while they were bathing in the river. The practical jokes and paint fights, which are now a common feature of Holi, are thought to have come from these stories.

Prahlad and Holika

The story of Prahlad symbolises good overcoming evil and is why bonfires are traditionally lit at Holi. Prahlad was a prince. His father wanted everyone in the kingdom to worship him, the King, not God. Prahlad refused and worshipped God in the form of Lord Vishnu instead.

The King's sister Princess Holika believed her evil magic made her immune to fire. She tricked Prahlad into sitting on her lap in a bonfire, in order to destroy him for defying the King. Lord Vishnu rewarded Prahlad’s devotion by saving him. Prahlad emerged from the fire unharmed, while Holika was burned.

In some celebrations, effigies of Holika are burnt on the fire. Ashes from Holi bonfires are thought by some Hindus to bring good luck.

In India in particular, Holi is a colourful festival, with dancing, singing, and throwing of powder paint and coloured water.

Holi is an opportunity for some Hindus to think about the things they can learn from scripture and they are reminded of the importance of staying true to their beliefs, as Prince Prahlad did.