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What Is Holi, The Colour Festival?

03/04/2014 01:59 EST | Updated 03/11/2014 06:59 EDT
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 27: Foreign tourists enjoying Holi celebration near Malviya Nagar market on March 27, 2013 in New Delhi, India. Holi, festival of color is Hindu religious festival also called Basantotsav or spring festival as it mark the arrival of spring. People gather together to play colors, sing and dance to traditional tunes and eat sweets specially Gujiyas. (Photo by Ahmer Khan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

With the arrival of spring comes pretty colours. And India explodes with them for Holi, a Hindu spring festival that takes place on March 17 in 2014.

Holi celebrations begin the day before, when followers burn an effigy of the mythical demoness Holika, who tried to kill Prahlad, a devotee of the Hindu Supreme God Narayana. Burning her symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.

The festival kicks into high gear the following day with the "play of colours," a tradition in which people spray coloured water on each other, and sing and dance to the beat of a dholak, a two-handed drum. Participants enjoy delicacies such as gujiya, malapua and mathri.

Celebrants also drink bhang, a beverage whose cannabis contents can relieve anxiety and heighten enjoyment of the festival, though people are warned not to consume it to excess.

Holi celebrations aren't restricted to India. The festival has spawned satellite events all over the world, including in the Toronto area, where event company Vibrant Milton Connections is putting on Rang 2014, a Holi celebration at the Milton Memorial Arena on March 16 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 per person.

Over on the west coast, the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society of B.C. is hosting a Holi celebration at the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey on March 16 at 12 p.m. The event promises free food stalls and live entertainment.

Holi hasn't just spawned events on the day itself. It also inspired the creation of Color Me Rad, a five-kilometre fun run in which participants douse each other with coloured powder.

Color Me Rad hits Edmonton on May 7; Montreal on May 18; Quebec CIty on May 24; Surrey, B.C. and Toronto on May 31; Kitchener/Waterloo on June 29; Winnipeg on July 19; Vancouver on Aug. 2; Gatineau on Aug. 24; Calgary on Aug. 28; Saskatoon on Sept. 6; and Regina on Sept. 14.

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