Holi is one of the most vibrant, beautiful festivals on the entire planet. As the Hindu acknowledgement of winter's end, it's a colourful celebration fitting with the onset of Spring. The adventures begin every year on the final day of the lunar month Phalguna, marked by a full moon. In 2014, that's March 17th.
An international affair
Hindus around the world get into the spirit of Holi season. Wherever there's a Hindu community, you'll discover that some kind of party is going on. Proceedings usually begin the night before, with massive bonfires, prayers and social gatherings. However, the action really gets going the next day when the colours come out. Basically, revellers spend twenty-four hours greeting each other with the words 'Happy Holi' before throwing bright liquids and powders everywhere. By the late afternoon, pretty much everybody resembles a rainbow.
Celebrating in India
Even though Holi parties happen in thousands of locations, it's fair to say that you haven't really experienced it thoroughly until you've done it in India. That's not only because the large crowds and passionate followers of the Hindu religion give the event epic proportions, it's also because rules and regulations aren't so strict. People of all ages - from children to parents to grandparents - use the opportunity to go a little wild. It's one of the few days on which India's otherwise marked social divisions break down (to an extent).
Apart from the colour-throwing, Holi is also about getting together with family and friends. Many people decorate their homes, organise gatherings with loved ones, exchange presents and prepare delicious feasts. If you're really lucky, you might even be invited to join the celebrations at a local home.
Watching a city transform
To get right to the heart of Holi, as it manifests in India, consider staying in New Delhi. It's just incredible to watch the usually hectic routines of every day urban living transform into a magical, multi-coloured festival. The entire city seems to turn into a carnival ground.
In addition to the local rituals, there are organised events. These vary from all-day and all-night dance parties run by celebrity DJs, to beachside camping affairs featuring acoustic and electronic acts, to restaurants offering set menus and live music, to special Holi buffets organised specifically for international tourists.
Plus, if you really want to see the local action in detail, it's possible to join a special Holi tour. This will take you to hidden corners of the city that you wouldn't normally see - places like Karol Bagh and Haus Khaz. It'll also provide an education in the history, myths and rituals that comprise the fabric of the Holi celebration.
If you're planning a vacation to New Delhi in March, it's crucial to remember that Holi is a really busy time of year. In fact, many tourists head to India just for the occasion. Be sure to book accommodation in advance to avoid getting caught out. There's nothing worse than jumping off the plane after a long flight and not knowing where to go or which tout to trust.
The Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Hotel is highly recommended, especially given that five-star luxury is much more affordable in India than it is at home. You'll find spacious rooms, a fully-equipped gymnasium, onsite dining facilities and pools. It's the perfect place to enjoy a little peace after a day spent in Holi celebration chaos. So, why not treat yourself? (And be assured of a hot, clean shower when the time comes to wash all that crazy colour away?)