Colorful days, solemn rituals, joyous celebrations - Holi is a boisterous occasion! Draped in white, people throng the streets in large numbers and smear each other with bright hued powders and squirt coloured water on one another through pichkaris (big syringe-like hand-pumps), irrespective of caste, color, race, sex, or social status; all these petty differences are temporarily relegated to the background and people give into an unalloyed colorful rebellion. There is exchange of greetings, the elders distribute sweets and money, and all join in frenzied dance to the rhythm of the drums. But if you wanna know how to celebrate the festival of colors to the fullest through the whole length of three days, here's a primer.
The day of the full moon (Holi Purnima) is the first day of Holi. A platter ('thali') is arranged with colored powders, and colored water is placed in a small brass pot ('lota'). The eldest male member of the family begins the festivities by sprinkling colors on each member of the family, and the youngsters follow.
On the second day of the festival called 'Puno', images of Holika are burnt in keeping with the legend of Prahlad and his devotion to lord Vishnu. In rural India, the evening is celebrated by lighting huge bonfires as part of the community celebration when people gather near the fire to fill the air with folk songs and dances. Mothers often carry their babies five times in a clockwise direction around the fire, so that her children are blessed by Agni, the god of fire.
The most boisterous and the final day of the festival is called 'Parva', when children, youth, men and women visit each other's homes and colored powders called 'aabir' and 'gulal' are thrown into the air and smeared on each other's faces and bodies. 'Pichkaris' and water balloons are filled with colors and spurted onto people - while young people pay their respects to elders by sprinkling some colors on their feet, some powder is also smeared on the faces of the deities, especially Krishna and Radha.