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When is Holi ?
The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year.
In 2015, Holi is listed as a holiday in: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarah, Chattisgarah, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand.
Holi was originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, but is now a symbolic commemoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology.
The story is that there was once a king who resented his son, Prince Prahlada, worshipping Lord Vishnu. He tries to murder the prince on several occasions but fails each time.
Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy inside a fire. However, the prince emerges unhurt, while his aunt burns in the fire and dies.
Holi remembers this event, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as a symbolic representation.
The festival is also associated with the eternal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation.
Holi is marked by colourful parades accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of relaxed fun.
Nowadays Holi is an excuse for young Indians to shed their inhibitions and caste differences for a day of fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets, and everyone chases everyone else around, throwing brightly colored powder and water over each other.
The festival begins on the night of the full moon. Fires are lit on street corners to cleanse the air of evil spirits and bad vibes, and to symbolize the destruction of the wicked Holika, after whom the festival was named.
The following morning, the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing.
In Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, Doljatra is celebrated instead of Holi. Essentially it is the same festival as Holi, but has added emphasis as it is the last festival of the Bengali year.