The festival of Holi: India & Abroad


There are some festivals, which find their way across the border. And Holi, the festival of colours, is one of them. Celebrated mainly in north India, and now across the country,the festival falls in March,signaling the onset of spring.

Traditionally, a bonfire is lit on Holi eve, signifying the victory of good over evil. Colours, gaiety and lots of fun is the common thread of the festival that is celebrated in different styles across the country.

After a bout of throwing colour,both dry (gulal) and wet (coloured water) at one another, mouthwatering delicacies, mainly gujjias, and drinks in the form of thandai and the heady bhang, bring family and friends together. This may well be one of the main attractions for foreigners,who head for places like Mathura, Varanasi and Jaipur.

Every year, these cities witness a surge in overseas tourist arrivals. Thus it is that the festival has become popular overseas,particularly in countries with a sizeable Indian diaspora.Our neighbour, Pakistan, has even chosen to declare a holiday to mark Holi.

They say, when one is away from home one realises the importance of celebrating festivals. As in India, people settled abroad greet friends and exchange sweets. It may well be a means to socialize but it also serves to bind the people of Indian origin and also to their roots. We take readers on a trip to different countries to see how Holi is celebrated there:

The US

With a large number of Indians residing in the US, Holi is celebrated with much fervor.Indians from major cities and colleges team up with local friends to celebrate the coming of spring. Different societies set up by Indians residing in various cities help organise the festivities. In New York, Holi parades are taken out. People can be seen having fun in these parades, playing with colour.Many a time Bollywood actors join the celebrations that see dance performances, fashion shows and music concerts. There is so much revelry that it becomes quite difficult to imagine that New York is not in India. With the rise in popularity of Holi,celebrations are seen at Las Vegas, Idaho and Arizona,as well as several cities in California,including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento.

The UK

Being the second largest ethnic minority in the UK, Indians settled there do not miss out on the excitement of celebrating Holi. One can particularly sense the zeal in localities with a large number of Indians. For instance,in Leicester,where every Indian festival is celebrated in full spirit, enjoyment reaches its peak during Holi. Like the US, here too, Holi parade is taken out.In the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They also apply tilak to mark the traditional joy.


Celebration of Holi in Australia is the same as in the US and the UK. However, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan takes a lead in terms of organising festivities. Holi is celebrated in the most prominent location,constantly visited by people from every community,such as Darling Harbour (Sydney). The two-day festival at Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour gives visitors to chance to enjoy performances and delicious Indian vegetarian food and craft stalls. A Rath Yatra (the journey of the hand-pulled Chariot of Lord Jagannätha) passes through the busy streets of Sydney, culminating at Darling Harbour and Tumbalong Park.


Due to the common cultural roots, Holi in Pakistan is celebrated in the same way as it is in India. People here follow the same rituals and traditions, such as cleaning one’s house, preparing delicacies like Gujia, Papri and Dahi Badas, meeting up with friends and playing with colours.Local Hindus gather in temples. Much gaiety can be seen in temples located in cities with comparatively greater Hindu population such as Lahore and Sindh region. In Punjab province, men form a pyramid to break a matka, or clay pot, which is hung at a high spot. Onlookers throw water and colour on the human pyramid.


In countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji, where Indian people were taken as indentured labourers during the colonial era, Holi is celebrated with the same fervor as in India. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the actual date. In Guyana, the main celebration in Georgetown is held at the mandir (temple) in Prashad Nagar. In Mauritius,Holi comes close on the heels of Shivaratri

Credits: The Statesman