The Holi festival, known as “Phagu Purnima” in Nepali, is one of the most anticipated annual celebrations in Nepal. A three-day festival of color and joy, Holi is observed on the full moon day, which falls either late February or early March. This year, our first volunteer team to Nepal celebrated with the children and staff of the DR Memorial school and children’s home.
Day 1 of Holi:
People observe the first festival day by decorating wooden poles and keep them burning through the night to symbolize the burning of the old year. The women dress in red saris and circle the poles praying for blessings. Custom says that in the Basantapur Durbar Area of Kathmandu a “Chir” was erected but later pulled down and burned. Today Chir (the sacred pole) is decorated with colorful cloth, reminding the people to prepare for the celebrations.
Day 2 of Holi:
On the second day, bonfires are lit to symbolize the death of the demon Holika, which signifies good winning over bad. According to mythology, the “devil king,” Hiranyakashyap forced everyone to worship him, however his son Prahlad did not. He was loyal to Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap plotted with his daughter Holika to kill Prahlad by walking through a burning fire. (Holika had been blessed with a resistance to fire) however, due to his devotion to Lord Vishnu, Prahlad survived while his sister Holika was burned to ashes!
Day 3 of Holi:
This iconic day is the one most often seen and reported on in news and in films. It’s a day of color and joy when people gather in masses on the streets, as families and in schools, to celebrate. Colorful water balloons, paint, and perfumed powder are thrown on all present – children and adults, women and men. The powdered pigment (called “gulal”) represents the bonfire of the second day. Each color symbolizes a force in life, and therefore color and life are inseparable. For instance, blue is the color of the revered god in Hinduism, Lord Krishna. Green symbolizes new beginnings, harvest, and fertility, and is also the sacred color of the Muslim community. In addition to throwing colored powder, there are feasts, dancing and singing – with everyone wishing each other, a “Happy Holi” – the festival of friendship, Love and new beginnings!
Global Volunteers celebrates Holi and other important festivals with children and families we serve in Kathmandu. Volunteer in Nepal during Holi and experience this most unique tradition! Call 800-487-1074 or register here.
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