Holi, the festival of colours, will be observed on 28th and 29th March this year. Read this article to know more about this festival.
Holi, one of the most vibrant festivals in the country is commemorated to honor the triumph of Good over Evil. This popular ancient Hindu Festival is often referred to as the festival of spring, colors, and the festival of love. Observed usually in the month of Phalguna (mid-march), Holi lasts for a day or two.
Beginning on the night of Purnima, this night is known as Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan, signifying the burning of demon Holika. The next day is called Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah in different parts of the country. Holi marks the onset of Spring, the end of winter, and the blooming of love. The day involves people playing with colors, visiting folks and peers, mending broken relationships, making merry, and celebrating this festival with great joy and enthusiasm.
Several legends revolve around this colorful festival, one is associated with Lord Vishnu, one with Krishna, one with Kamadeva, and a few others. All of these legends have various stories explaining the stories behind this ancient festival.
One famous legend about the celebration of Holi is associated with the love and companionship shared by Krishna and Radha. It was lord Krishna who started playing with colors by applying color on Radha and the other gopis. Eventually, with time this act of play with colors attained popularity and came to be known as Holi. Hence, some say that this playful coloring of Radha and Krishna's face is the reason behind the celebration of this bright festival.
The Vishnu legend explains why Holi may be appreciated as a festival of signifying the victory of Good over Evil, in honor of Lord Vishnu and his follower Prahlada. The great story behind Hiranyakashipu, the ruler of Asuras(demons), and his evil sister Holika trying to kill Prahlada while sitting on fire is attributed with the celebration of Holi, particularly the ritual of Holika bonfire observed on the evening before Holi. Legends say that Holi symbolizes the celebration of the symbolic victory of good over evil, here, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the fire that burned evil Holika.
In Hindu traditions like Shaivism and Shaktism, Holi is attributed to the time when Lord Shiva was deeply medicating and the willingness of his wife, Parvati, to bring her beloved husband back into this world. This willingness led her to seek help from Kamadeva, the day Maa Saraswati was born. The arrows of this love God, Kamadeva led to Shiva opening his third eye and the consequences of which burned Kamadeva to ashes. This incident immensely upset both Parvati and Rati (wife of Kamadeva) because of which she carried out her own meditative asceticism for forty days that ultimately led to Shiva forgiving Kamadeva and restoring him to life. This happened exactly on the 40'th day from Vasant Panchami and hence, some legends say this may be the reason behind the celebration of Holi.
Other than these few popular legends some other mythologies too are related to the celebration of Holi in the country. In some parts of India like Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated to honor the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The tale of Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana depicts the conquest of Good over Evil. Thus, asserting a philosophy behind the celebration of this vibrant spring festival as a whole.
The preparations for this festival begin several days ahead of the actual festival. People begin by collecting woods and other materials for making the bonfire ready for the celebration of Holika Dahan. On the night before the actual Holi, people assemble around the bonfire, conduct various traditional rites, and wish that the evils inside them are destroyed just like Holika was destroyed in the blaze. The next day is considered as Rangwali Holi, meaning the celebration with colors. On this day, India is drenched in different shades of colors and is filled with a festive breeze all around. Enthusiasm is filled in every nook and corner of the country. Unlike most festivities in India, Holi doesn't involve worshipping or performing puja devoting to a particular deity and is solely meant for enjoyment and fun. However, in South India, the day of Holi is dedicated to worshipping Kamadeva, the God of love. In the course of this festivity, the entire nation is seen taking extreme amusement in spraying one another with colors and splashing water on each other. Like most Indian festivals Holi too has a bunch of tasty delicacies that Indians enjoy. These tasty food items like Gujiya,Malpuas, etc are eaten with great joy. A very popular drink during Holi is Thandai, prepared with bhang (cannabis). This drink is savored in every corner of the country, the consumption of which is expected to further enhance the essence of this unique carnival of hues.
Apart from having an explicit explanation in the Narad Purana and Bhavishya Purana, this festival also finds recognition in Jaimini Mimansa, which is a stone engraving of 300 BC in Ramgarh, and the territory of Vindhya has a mention of Holikotsav on it. In Ratnavali, written during the 7'th century, King Harsha also referred to holikotsav. Also, Ulbaruni, the popular Muslim traveler has mentioned holikotsav in his historical recollections. Several other Muslim writers of that time also have spoken of holikotsav as not just being limited to the Hindus, but a festival enjoyed by the Muslims as well.
Apart from India and Nepal, Holi is enjoyed in parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. In fact, in the United States, the celebration of 'NYC Holi Hai' in Manhattan, is an example of how Holi is observed as a major social event globally. In some European countries and the United States, numerous Holi-inspired public events including a few music festivals like the Festival of Colours Tours, The Colour Run, The Color Festival, etc have all gained tremendous popularity. Thus, Holi is not just confined to the Indians but is a widely recognized and enjoyed carnival of colors.