RollAsia is an Employee Resource Group (ERG) at NextRoll with the mission of promoting inclusivity and heritage awareness among all Asian ethnic groups and allies through networking, professional development and events within and outside of NextRoll. One of the reasons I love being part of RollAsia, is it gives me the ability to learn about different Asian cultures but also allows me to teach group members, allies and NextRoll employees alike about different holidays, events and celebrations that are important to me. Some of our annual staple events are: Lunar New Year, Holi, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Filipino Independence Day, India/Pakistan Independence Day, Obon, Mid-Autumn Festival, Korean Liberation Day, Diwali, Filipino Heritage Month and Hmong New Year. In the spirit of educating other Rollers about significant cultural events and for everyone to have a small taste of a key South Asian festival, we are sharing a summary and informational piece about Holi, the Festival of Colors!

If you have ever lived in a major city or metropolis that boasts a decent South Asian population, you have probably seen, heard or experienced the festival of colors that is Holi. So what exactly is this extravagant and colorful celebration?

The roots of the festival can be traced to a plethora of mythological stories but it is commonly known as the festival that marks the beginning of Spring. The philosophical significance stems from the idea of the victory of good over evil. Holi is also a social reset of sorts; where you can forgive and forget, mend broken relationships and it even serves as an avenue of meeting other like-minded individuals. Holi also has an agricultural significance where it marks the celebration of a successful harvest season.

Photo by Marcin Dampc

So what is with the colors and the actual celebration? Each color has a different meaning and symbolism tied to it:

  • Red – the ultimate color of love, passion, and fertility
  • Blue – the color of Krishna’s face, and also the sky and oceans
  • Yellow – the color knowledge and learning, symbolising happiness, meditation and peace
  • Green – the color of nature, symbolises the start of Spring and new beginnings
  • Pink – the color of caring and compassion
  • Purple – can symbolise magic and mystery

Traditions across India and the world vary but typically here is what goes down during the free-for-all section of the festival: Groups of people agree on a centralized location where they will “play” Holi. In a country where the caste system was and to a certain extent is present, this is very important since all people from different social, economic and cultural backgrounds are welcome to participate. People gather (safe-to-use) color powders and go around smearing each other and some even put the powders in water guns to drench each other. There are instruments that are present, usually drums, which is accompanied by loud singing and dancing. This goes on for a few hours before everyone goes home to shower (and at times, sober up) before meeting again for dinner with family and friends.

Happy Holi!

Photo by Yogendra Sing