India is home to a huge diversity of cultures, religions and languages. The nation’s rich cultural heritage dates back at least 5,000 years making India one of the oldest civilisations in the world. India’s many cultural influences means that it has a wide array of religious celebrations throughout the year. One such celebration takes place on the 19th March when the Holi festival will become a central point for many Indians, particularly those who live in the north of India.
Holi celebrations will impact anyone visiting or doing business in India at during this time. A very lively and often colourful Hindu festival that lasts for several days, Holi celebrations have become very popular and draw a lot of attention.
Holi is a religious festival and marks the beginning of spring. At the same time its origins are closely tied to the religious legend Krishna. Krishna, who is said to have spent his childhood in the north of India, took great pleasure in colours and liked painting the face of his childhood friend. One of the rituals of Holi involves people throwing coloured powder at each other and spraying coloured water, leaving everyone soaked in bright colours. You may recall seeing photographs from India in the past at this time of year where people are in the streets and are covered in colour.
To an outsider, many of the traditions of Holi can give an impression of pure entertainment or fun. It’s important however to consider the religious side of the festival and what it really means to your Indian counterparts. In the case of Holi, each colour has a specific meaning: green is for harmony, orange symbolises faith in the future, blue brings health while red represents love and joy. It is also a custom to apologise when throwing colour at someone and you might hear “Bura na mano, Holî hai” (which can be translated by “please don’t be upset, it’s Holi”) a lot during the festival.
But Holi is not only about throwing coloured powders. Depending on the region, you may witness different events such as a bonfire in Bihar, religious processions in Bengal or even women chasing men with sticks in the village of Barsana. All these events are related to the countless variations of myths and legends connected to the festival. Regardless where you are and how the festival is celebrated, Holi is the only time of the year when social and gender distinctions seem to vanish to give way to a sense of sheer joy shared by every member of the community.
People in India take great pride in their cultural heritage so when doing business in Indiayou should always try to understand as much as possible about the culture and traditions. In addition to religious celebrations like Holi, it’s also important to understand how Indians think, behave and communicate in both social and professional spheres. An intercultural training course like Doing Business in India can help you to understand the many working practices and business values in Indian culture and how they are influenced by unique religious and cultural traditions like Holi.
So, if you visit or live in India, make sure to visit the North of the country during the Holi celebration and enjoy this colourful celebration alongside the local population.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2011