Holi is the joyful Hindu Festival of Colors. It is celebrated over several days in early spring when the wheat is harvested. The festival marks the coming of spring and observes new life and the seasons. This year the Holi festival is celebrated on March 11th. It is an ancient Indian festival that is believed to have existed several centuries before Christ and is mentioned in stone inscriptions and in sculptures on the walls of old temples. The meaning of the festival has changed. In earlier times, the festival was a rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families.
Celebrating the Holi Festival in the Montessori Classroom
Another story told at Holi is about the son of King Hiranyakashyap (thought to be a demon king), Prahlad. Hiranyakashyap wanted to be worshipped instead of God. His son refused and in turn, the king ordered Prahlad’s death. Hiranyakashyap’s evil sister, Holika (for whom the festival is named) led Prahlad into a huge bonfire. She knew she was protected from fire, but did not know this was only true when she entered into a fire alone. As the story goes, Holika died and Prahlad was saved by God.
On the eve of Holi, people light fires to get rid of evil spirits. In the middle of the fire, they place a large tree branch that represents Prahlad. After the fire is burning, they remove the branch to “save” Prahlad. They might also place an effigy of Holika in the fire and allow it to burn. This represents how good always wins against evil. Everyone dresses in their best clothes for this event.
Holi Ideas for the Montessori Classroom
- Depending on your climate and in an appropriate environment, students could partake in the tradition of throwing colored paint. You could use this opportunity to explore primary and secondary colors and the relationships between colors. Students can also study the medicinal herbs from which paint for this celebration was originally made.
- Students could create a timeline of what is known about the history of Holi and include other corresponding world events.
- Invite a Hindu parent or community member to come to class to talk about Holi, Hinduism and India. They could show pictures and artifacts and have a cooking lesson with the students.
- Use the discussion of the Holi celebration to talk about other cultural spring celebrations, the seasons, different calendars, and/or major world religions.
- Older students can rewrite the story of Prahlad in their own words and illustrate it using their own interpretations. Students might want to write a contemporary retelling or find similar storylines in modern fiction.
- Students could perform a play about the festival of Holi or the story of Prahlad. They could do a traditional play or a production using shadow or hand puppets.
- A World of Festivals: Holi-The Hindu Festival of Colours, by Dilip Kadodwala
- Divali and Holi (Festival Fun for the Early Years), by Meg Jones
- Here Comes Holi: The Festival of Colors, by Meenal Pandya
- Holi, by Uma Krishnaswami
- NAMC Cultural Geography 6-9 Manual (pages 148-150 and 160-161)