The first day of Holi is known as Holika Dahan. Holika Dahan is also known as Chhoti Holi which literally means small Holi. People use little colors on the first day and hence the name Chhoti Holi. Chhoti Holi should not mean that it has less religious significance. The second day of Holi is known as Dhulandi (धुलण्डी) and more popularly as Rangwali Holi.
As per Hindu lunar calendar it is Phalguna Purnima day which decides the first day of Holi. The second day of Holi always follows the first day. As mentioned above the main Holi festivities span for the two days. However the preparation of Holi begins eight days before of the first Holi day. This day is known as Holashtak (होलाष्टक) and begins on Phalguna Ashtami during Shukla Paksha. Most temples in Mathura and Vrindavan organize Holi events during these eight days of Holashtak.
In 2013, Holashtak would begin on 20th March and would end on 27th March. It should be noted that Holashtak is an inauspicious time to conduct marriage and any other auspicious ceremonies. However the effect of Holashtak is limited to certain area of the Northern India. The places on the banks of river Vyas, Ravi and Satlaj, all of which are in Punjab, and the Pushkar area of Ajmer are affected with Holashtak. However most people in North India, even those residing outside the mentioned places, avoid any auspicious ceremonies during this time. Holashtak is less known event in the South India.
Holika Dahan is a community event which is performed at streets and roads junction. On the first day of Holashtak people choose the place of Holika Dahan. The chosen place is sanctified with holy water of Ganges and few dried woods are collected and placed on the sanctified spot. The ritual of collecting dried woods, which are fallen from trees naturally, continues for the next eight days. By the last day of Holashtak the spot has good amount of dried woods which is used to burn demoness Holika symbolically.