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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Holi - A Festival of colors



The celebration of Holi is very ancient in its origin. And by its very origin, it celebrates an ultimate triumph of the 'good' over the 'evil'. While, a feast of colors associated with the Holi, is the face of this celebration, the original reason of celebrating Holi, lies in its soul. And this gives us the 'why' of this ancient festival. 

Literally "Holi" signifies "burning" in Indian language. But, how it came to be associated with 'burning', is a story. 

Holi is an ancient festival of India and was originally known as 'Holika'. The literal meaning of the word 'Holi' is 'burning'. There are various legends to explain the meaning of this word, most prominent of all is the legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyap. 


Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad
 became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion. 


The festival of Holi is also associated with the enduring love between Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and Radha, and Krishna in general. According to legend, the young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha's face and see how her complexion would change. Because of this associated with Krishna, Holi is extended over a longer period in Vrindavan and Mathura, two cities with which Krishna is closely affiliated.
Krishna's followers everywhere find special meaning in the joyous festival, as general frivolity is considered to be in imitation of Krishna's play with the gopis (wives and daughters of cowherds).


Holi Rituals and Customs

Holi is spread out over two days (it used to be five, and in some places it is longer). The entire holiday is associated with a loosening of social restrictions normally associated with caste, sex, status and age. Holi thus bridges social gaps and brings people together: employees and employers, men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Holi is also characterized by the loosening of social norms governing polite behavior and the resulting general atmosphere of licentious merrymaking and ribald language and behavior. A common saying heard during Holi is bura na mano, Holi hai ("don't feel offended, it's Holi").

On the evening of the first day of Holi, a public bonfire is held, commemorating the burning of Holika. Traditionally, Hindu boys spend the weeks prior to Holi combing the neighborhood for any waste wood they can find for the bonfire. The fire is lit sometime between 10 PM and midnight (at the rising of the moon), not generally in an orderly fashion. Everyone gathers in the street for the event, and the air rings with shouts, catcalls, curses and general mayhem. 

Play of Colors

Next day, is of course the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti
and it is on this day that the actual play of colours take place. There is no tradition of holding puja and is meant for pure enjoyment.
The tradition of playing colours is particularly rampant in north India and even in that region, there can be no comparison to the Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan. In Maharashtra and Gujarat too Holi is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and fun.

People take extreme delight in spraying colour water on each other with pichkaris or pouring buckets and buckets of it. Singing Bollywood Holi numbers and dancing on the beat of dholak is also a part of the tradition. Amidst all this activity people relish gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other traditional Holi delicacies with great joy.

Drinks, specially thandai laced with bhang is also an intrinsic part of the Holi festivity. Bhang helps to further enhance the spirit of the occasion but if taken in excess it might dampen it also. So caution should be taken while consuming it. 

Holi is also a festival of forgiveness and new starts, which ritually aims to generate harmony in the society.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice way of writing. Amazing content written by the author. Keep posting like that on festivals..
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