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What is Holi Festival and Why is it Celebrated?

Written By
By Volunteer Forever
Editorial Team
Holi Festival

The Holi Festival (or festival of colors) is a fascinating cultural and religious celebration that encompasses much more than just throwing colored dye in the air. In this article, you’ll learn some general Holi Festival information and facts, and get a glimpse into the rich religious traditions behind its celebration. We’ll also tell you about some volunteer organizations hosting programs in India so you can have the opportunity to experience the Holi Festival firsthand.

What Is Holi Celebrated for?

Holi is a Hindu festival that has been celebrated since ancient times. The Holi Festival is celebrated as a way to welcome in spring, and also is seen as a new beginning where people can release all their inhibitions and start fresh. It is said that during the Holi Festival, the gods turn a blind eye, and it’s one of the few times extremely devout Hindus allow themselves to let loose. They open up and enjoy each other’s company, take time to dance and party, and throw their cultural norms to the side. On the first day of the festival, a bonfire is lit to symbolically burn away all the bad and give way to a colorful and vibrant new future.

At the Holi Festival, participants throw powder dye into the air, covering all in attendance with vibrant colors. In a religious sense, the colors are rich with symbolism and have multiple meanings: they can mean a vibrant new life and even represent sin in a way. For some, washing off the dye at the end of the day can mean new commitment to live well, as cleansing oneself of evils and demons.

Which Religion Celebrates Holi Festival?

The Holi Festival is primarily celebrated by Hindus. That said, the festival is a very inclusive, as one of the main themes of the festival is unity. So, while the Holi Festival is rooted in Hindu tradition, it is a celebration that happens all over the world. It brings people together and invites them to throw away their inhibitions, feeling united in one big colorful group.

What Is the Story of Holi Festival?

It’s said that the Holi Festival was originally a ceremony for married women to spread prosperity and goodwill on their new family. Since then, the festival has evolved to encompass much more. Now, one of the main focuses of the Holi Festival is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.

Good overcoming evil in Hinduism is rooted in the story of Hiranyakashipu. He was an ancient king who claimed to be immortal and demanded to be worshipped as a god. His son Prahlad was deeply devoted to worshipping the Hindu deity Vishnu, and Hiranyakashipu was angry that his son worshipped this god over him. According to the story, the Lord Vishnu appeared as half-lion and half-man, and killed Hiranyakashipu. In that way, good conquered evil.

Another story tied to the Holi Festival is that of Radha and Krishna. As the eighth incarnation of the Hindu god Vishna, Krishna is seen by many as the supreme god. Krishna is said to have blue skin because as legend has it, he drank poisonous milk from a demon when he was a baby. Krishna fell in love with the goddess Radha, but feared she would not love him because of his blue skin – but Radha allowed Krishna to dye her skin with color, making them a true couple. On Holi, Festival participants apply color to each other’s skin in honor of Krishna and Radha.

Where Is Holi Festival Mainly Celebrated?

Holi Festival is mainly celebrated in India and Nepal, but over the years it has grown to be a celebration that takes place in many communities all across the globe. The festival is most widely and openly celebrated in cities like Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, and while each city may celebrate slightly differently, you can expect to see plenty of colors, music, and dance.

Why Do We Celebrate Holi in America?

There are many Hindu populations in the United States, particularly in larger metropolitan areas. In addition to the religious meaning of the festival, some have adopted it in the United States for the spectacle and entertainment. Holi Festivals can be found in Boston, New York, Houston, and even Spanish Fork, Utah.

When Is Holi Festival?

Holi Festival is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month of (Phalguna), which is generally around the end of March. The exact date of Holi may vary from year to year.

What Is the Holi Festival Like?

The Holi Festival is wild: think big crowds, colored dye, water guns, music, dancing, and partying. During the Holi Festival, people dance through the streets and throw colored dye on each other. The Holi Festival is a happy time when people come together as one and let go of their inhibitions.

What Are Some Ways to Experience the Holi Festival?

If you live in the United States, you may be able to find a large city that hosts a Holi Festival, or Festival of Colors. For the full experience though, you need to attend a Holi Festival celebration in India – and a great way to experience Holi in India is to volunteer there; check out Helen’s recap of volunteering in India and experiencing the Holi Festival firsthand. Whether or not you’re there for the actual festival, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Indian culture and Hinduism, and become enveloped in the country’s rich heritage.

What Are the Best Volunteer Programs in India?

volunteer in India

There are many programs that can offer you amazing experiences in India. Here are some of our favorites.

1. GoEco

Whether you want to road trip across India, take on a medical internship in Delhi, or even care for elephants, you can find an opportunity with GoEco. Programs range from two to eight weeks, and there are several options to fit whatever you’re looking to do in India.

2. Volunteering Solutions

Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) is an international volunteer organization that was started in 2006. Since 2007, they have hosted over 17,000 volunteers in projects across 25+ countries, including destinations where Holi is celebrated such as Nepal and India.

3. GVI

GVI offers internship programs up to 24 weeks long in community development, teaching, health and wellbeing, and women’s empowerment. They provide several ways to make a difference while also giving you great experience in your chosen field of study.

4. A Broader View

A Broader View has multiple programs in two major areas in India. In Udaipur, they offer construction and renovation, child care and teaching programs, and even service opportunities at an animal welfare center. In Jaipur, you can work with children, teach English, volunteer with elephants, and much more. Projects can be anywhere from two to eight weeks long.

5. Frontier

Frontier has an amazing two- to three-week program in Goa that includes a wide array of experiences including volunteer work, teaching, kindergarten work, assistance at a women’s shelter, and even elderly care work.

6. Global Leadership Adventures

Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) is an organization specially-designed to give teenagers incredible experiences abroad. In India, GLA offers a 21-day program in Jaipur to help children by supporting infrastructure projects at their schools. Participants also get the opportunity to take part in special cooking and dress workshops, and even visit some of India’s most amazing sites.


International Volunteer HQ offers a number of volunteer opportunities in or near the Indian cities of Delhi and Kerala. In Delhi, volunteers can assist with childcare, health initiatives, and English teaching. In Kerala, volunteers may help with kindergarten, dentistry, women’s education, or even medical or special needs care. IVHQ program participants can volunteer in India for as little as one week, and as long as six months.

8. Plan My Gap Year

Plan My Gap Year offers many volunteer programs in India – whether you’d prefer to teach English, provide medical assistance, or volunteer with children, there are plenty of programs and opportunities. This organization even has programs that combine adventures and sightseeing with volunteer opportunities. Programs range in duration from two weeks to at least 24 weeks, and they can be spread across different cities.

What are the biggest takeaways?

India is an amazingly religious and culturally rich country to visit. From the Holi Festival to the people to the animals, there are so many experiences to be had and connections to be made. Take some time to learn about India and its rich traditions and plan your volunteer trip today. If you’re lucky, you may even have an authentic Holi Festival experience!