Celebrating Holi with Anita Champaneri
03 March 2023
Celebrated by millions of people in India and around the world, Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.
The festival of colours is usually celebrated in March on the day of the full moon, hence why there is no fixed date. This year, Holi begins on March 8th.
To learn more about this vibrant festival, we interviewed Anita Champaneri, Managing Director of Delicious PR, who celebrates Holi every year with her loved ones.
As Holi is steeped in tradition and symbolism, Anita first discusses the fascinating story behind the festival.
There are many folk tales about Holi. It’s widely believed that the festival’s name is derived from ‘Holika’, the wicked sister of Hiranyakashipu, a demon King in India.
The King believed he was a god and immortal, and his sister had been told that her magical powers made her resistant to fire. Prahlada, the King’s son, rebelled against his father’s arrogance because he was a devoted worshipper of Lord Vishnu, the God of Preservation.
As punishment, the cruel King and his sister plotted his death. Holika tricked her nephew into a bonfire, but her supernatural powers deserted her, and she died in the flames while the King’s son survived.
In retaliation, Hiranyakashipu evoked the wrath of the gods but was also struck down. His son was then crowned as the new and just ruler. This event was heralded as a triumph of good over evil.
Following this, Anita talks about celebrating Holi with her loved ones.
Today, to celebrate this victory, large wooden pyres are lit in many parts of India to symbolise the burning of evil spirits.
Holi is also marked by millions of people, regardless of religion, caste, and age, with the festivities uniting communities worldwide.
In Birmingham, we attend a festival organised by the local temple at Cannon Hill Park each year. On the eve of the festival, people throw grains, popcorn, coconut, and chickpeas onto the bonfire. It’s not uncommon to hear exploding coconuts! Don’t worry; it’s well organised with lots of health and safety protocols in place.
The next day of the festival is more about community and social gatherings. Traditionally it’s when the community come together for raucous watercolour fights. We wear plain clothes, smear each other’s faces with vermillion powder, and throw coloured water at each other. It’s enormous fun but messy!
Some believe Holi’s colourful games were inspired by our ancient Hindu God, Lord Krishna, who mischievously threw coloured water over his milkmaids as a boy.
Lastly, Anita tells us about celebrations in India.
I would love to experience Holi in India, where entire streets and towns turn red, green, and yellow as people of all backgrounds come together to throw coloured powder into the air.
If you watch the Bollywood cult classic movie Sholay, there’s a great musical number about Holi, which has stuck with me since childhood. The joyous scene shows a village unite while singing, dancing, and throwing around colourful powder to mark the spectacular occasion.
My cousins in Mumbai also challenge their neighbourhood friends and throw balloons filled with coloured water from their rooftops at each other. You can only imagine the scene and the smiles! It would be a memorable experience celebrating with my family in India.