“Happy Holi!” I’m greeted as I enter the crowded scene, amongst the locals, in Patan Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal. Everyone is covered in a rainbow of colors, each wearing a gigantic smile on their face. Soon the music starts and the dancing begins, and the vivid array of colors are tossed into the air.

Every spring thousands of Indians, Nepalis, and westerners join together to celebrate the coming of spring and new life by dancing, singing and throwing handfuls of gulal (finely-coloured powder) and water balloons at each other. During this fun and rowdy holiday the segregating labels of caste and ethnicity are forgotten, if only for a moment.

What is Holi?

The legend behind Holi, a distinctly Hindu festival based in Indian mythology, is that it originates from the ancient legend of Krishna and Radha. The god Krishna fell in love with the goddess Radha but was worried about differences in their skin color, because his was blue. His mother advised him to playfully paint her face to overcome their differences in skin color. Youngsters and lovers today continue to celebrate the ancient mythology by making sure their faces are painted the same when the celebration starts.

Although Holi is mainly celebrated in South Asia, many westerners have started carrying the celebration back to their home countries. During the peak of the celebrations in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, you will see many westerners eager to join in the celebration of welcoming spring and new life. Holi, living up to its legend, truly helps others transcend the differences of culture, race and ethnicity.

What do the colors mean?

Each individual color carries a distinct meaning. Red is the ultimate color of love and fertility; yellow is the color of knowledge, symbolizing happiness and meditation; blue represents the Hindu God Krishna; green, the color of nature, symbolizes new beginnings; pink, symbolizes empathy and compassion; and purple is the color of magic and mystery.

Report by: Benjamin Loecken