One of the major festivals of India, Holi is celebrated with
enthusiasm and gaiety on the full moon day
in the month of Phalgun
which is the month of March as per the Gregorian calendar.
Holi festival may be celebrated with various names and people of different
states might be following different traditions. But, what makes Holi so
unique and special is the spirit of it which remains the same throughout the
country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated.
Entire country wears a festive look when it is time for Holi celebration.
Market places get abuzz with activity as frenzied shoppers start making
preparations for the festival. Heaps of various hues of gulal and abeer can
be seen on the roadside days before the festival. Pichkaris
innovative and modern design too come up every year to lure the children who
wish to collect them as Holi memorabilia and of course, to drench everybody
in the town.
Womenfolk too start making early preparations for the holi festival as they
cook loads of gujiya, mathri and papri
for the family and also for
the relatives. At some places specially in the north women also make papads
and potato chips at this time.
Season of Bloom
Everybody gets delighted at the arrival of Holi as the season itself is so
gay. Holi is also called the Spring Festival -
as it marks the
arrival of spring the season of hope and joy. The gloom of the winter goes
as Holi promises of bright summer days. Nature too, it seems rejoices at the
arrival of Holi and wears its best clothes. Fields get filled with crops
promising a good harvest to the farmers and flowers bloom colouring the
surroundings and filling fragrance in the air.
A Hindu festival, Holi has various legends associated with it. The foremost
is the legend of demon King Hiranyakashyap
who demanded everybody in
his kingdom to worship him but his pious son, Prahlad
devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap wanted his son to be killed. He asked
his sister Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap as Holika
had a boon which made he immune to fire. Story goes that Prahlad was saved
by lord himself for his extreme devotion and evil minded Holika was burnt to
ashes, for her boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Since that time, people light a bonfire, called Holika on the eve of Holi
festival and celebrate the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of
devotion to god. Children take special delight in the tradition and this has
another legend attached to it. It says that there was once an ogress Dhundhi
who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Prithu. She was chased away
by children on the day of Holi. Therefore, children are allowed to play
pranks at the time of 'Holika Dahan'.
Some also celebrate the death of evil minded Pootana.
tried to Lord Krishna as an infant by feeding it poisonous milk while
executing the plan of Kansa, Krishna's devil uncle. However, Krishna sucked
her blood and brought her end. Some who view the origin of festivals from
seasonal cycles believe that Pootana represents winter and her death the
cessation and end of winter.
In South India,
people worship Kaamadeva
- the god of love
and passion for his extreme sacrifice. According to a legend, Kaamadeva shot
his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiva to revoke his interest in the worldly
affairs in the interest of the earth. However, Lord Shiva was enraged as he
was in deep mediation and opened his third eye which reduced Kaamadeva to
ashes. Though, later on the request of Rati, Kaamadeva's wife, Shiva was
pleased to restore him back.
On the eve of Holi, called Chhoti or Small Holi people gather at important
crossroads and light huge bonfires, the ceremony is called Holika Dahan.
This tradition is also followed in Gujarat and Orissa. To render
greatfulness to Agni, god of Fire, gram and stalks from the harvest are also
offered to Agni with all humility. Ash left from this bonfire is also
considered sacred and people apply it on their foreheads. People believe
that the ash protects them from evil forces.
Play of Colors
excitement can be seen in people on the next day when it is actually the
time for the play of colours. Shops and offices remain closed for the day
and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colours of gulal
and abeer fill the air and people take turns in pouring colour water over
each other. Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another
with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons and passers by. Women and
senior citizen form groups called tolis
and move in colonies -
applying colours and exchanging greetings. Songs, dance on the rhythm of
and mouthwatering Holi delicacies are the other highlights of
Expression of Love
Lovers too long to apply colours on their beloved. This has a popular
legend behind it. It is said that the naughty and mischievous Lord Krishna
started the trend of playing colours. He applied colour on her beloved Radha
to make her one like him. The trend soon gained popularity amongst the
masses. No wonder, there is no match to the Holi of Mathura, Vrindavan and
Barsana - the places associated with the birth and childhood of Radha and
Ecstasy of Bhang
There is also a tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this
day to further enhance the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the
otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display.
Some, however, take bhang in excess and spoil the spirit. Caution should
therefore be taken while consuming bhang delicacies.
After a funfilled and exciting day, the evenings the spent in sobriety when
people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.
It is said the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in
society and even the enemies turn friend on this day. People of all
communities and even religions participate in this joyous and colouful
festival and strenthen the secular fabric of the nation.