In trying to explain the significance of holi to my foreign son-in-law I found myself searching the net as my knowlede did not go beyond the Prahlad-Hollika story. On this site, I read the follwoing: Originally the festival was primarily for the Shudras who were otherwise not allowed to participate in festivals. In ancient India too, this festival was celebrated as a day when people forgot caste and gender differences and were allowed many liberties, otherwise forbidden.
I do have vague memories of my childhood in my grandfather's home when on that day those who worked in the house joined everyone in the lawns where holi was celebrated with great gusto. Flowers had been soaked overnight to provide a wonderful yellow brew, and colours were natural, sweets had been made at home too and many sherbets cooled in earthen pots. Some were forbidden to us ; guess they were the ones laced with bhang.
Then Holi became a day one dreaded as chemical colors, and all the filth imaginable were hurled at you even days before the festival. Like most festivals, the essence was forgotten.
I was glad to reconnect with the meaning of the festival and was happy to see that the little band that played holi in my garden reflected just that essence as all the Indias not to say the world were united in fun and spirit.