Those who partake in Holi festivities smear colored water and brightly colored powdered paint—called gulal—on friends, family, and strangers during huge public celebrations.
Most of the festivals last about two days, but some regions may celebrate much longer.
While Holi is seen as a lighthearted time, there is a wealth of Hindu mythology behind the colorful revelry.
The most popular story is that of Prahlad, a young devotee of Lord Vishnu and son of an arrogant and evil king.
As the story goes, Hindu American Foundation's Shah said, Prahlad's father believed he should be worshiped instead of Vishnu and disapproved of Prahlad's devotion to the god.
After several attempts on his son's life, the king ordered Prahlad to sit on the lap of his aunt Holika—who, it was said, could not be burned by fire—on a lit pyre. Prahlad agreed, and after praying to Vishnu, he entered the fire.
"To the amazement of all, Prahlad survived while Holika was burnt to death," Shah said. "Thus, the celebration of Holi—the Lord Vishnu protects those who have true love and faith in him."