One of the important festivals of North India, Holi - the festival of colours, is celebrated with gaiety and exuberance. It marks the end of winter and greets the advent of spring. According to legend, Holika was a demoness who was vanquished by Prahlad, her virtuous nephew. The heroic deed is commemorated with a bonfire on the eve of Holi and the next morning, the young and the old take part in boisterous singing, dancing and smearing each other with Abir - coloured powder, or Gulal spraying coloured water. This is a day to forgive and forget and to repair ruptured relationships.
Holi is associated with the romantic frolicking of the cowherd God Krishna. Many exquisite Mughal miniatures depict the celebration of Holi with Radha and Krishna in the leading roles.
From folk music and dance of Raas to the austerely classical Dhrupad style of vocal music and the elegant Kathak, Holi continues to inspire artistes in different genres.
There is a lot of informal feasting, some people enjoy the heady effect of an almond flavoured milk drink Thandai spiked with Cannabis. The sweetmeat popularly exchanged on this occasion is Gujiya - a half moon pastry filled with condensed milk, dried fruits and nuts.
In Punjab Hola-Mohalla is celebrated the day after the Holi. On this day the blue and saffron dressed Nihangs regale the onlookers with a breathtaking display of fencing and archery, acrobatic riding and mock combat.