Holi-The Festival of Colors
Holi, the festival of colors, is the Hindu festival full of fun. Holi brings a lot of fun, music, dance and of course lots of bright colors. It is celebrated with full enthusiasm and joy throughout the country. It falls on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun, ie February or March.
Holi is celebrated at the end of winter and the beginning of the spring season. It is known by different names in different regions of India, as Dhulendi, Lathmaar Holi, Mohhalla Hola, Basant Utsav, Rangpanchami etc.
Holi the beginning of the period of harvest is celebrated. The crop is ready for harvest during this time. On Holi, farmers worship and pray for good harvests.
Various Legends of Holi
Holi is an ancient festival which has its mention in ancient Indian scriptures such as Narada Purana and Bhavishya Purana. There are many old paintings and murals in the ancient temples representing the festival of Holi. One of the most important legends associated with Holi is the story of Bhakt Prahalad.
Prahalad was the son of the king of demons, Hiranyakashipu. Unlike other demons, Prahalad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. He worshiped Lord Vishnu day and night. Hiranyakashipu did not like his son’s devotion to God. He tried to stop Prahalad from doing so by various means, but it was useless. Finally, he decided to kill Prahalad.
Hiranyakashipu used various means to attempt to kill Prahalad but eventially, Prahalad is saved every time by mystical powers of Lord Vishnu. One such attempt was to convince Holika to kill her. Holika was sister of Hiranyakashipu. She was blessed with a cloak (shawl) which made made her immune to harm by fire. Hiranyakashipu asked Holika to sit in the blazing fire, Prahalad in her lap.
Holika trapped Prahalad in her lap and sat on the fire. Prahalad prayed to Lord Vishnu to keep him safe. The cloak (shawl) flew as the fire roared and Holika burnt. Prahald survived, unhurt. The Holika Dahan or Holi Bonfire is held to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
However, there is another legend that is linked to playing of colors on Holi. Legend says that this tradition originated from Vrindavan. Legend says it that Lord Krishna was jealous of Radha’s white complexion and asked his mother Yashoda why she is so fair and why he is so dark. His mother jokingly suggested he should stain color on Radha’s face and change it to any color he wanted. Krishna proceeded to do so and thus Holi as play of colors was introduced.
There is third legend which says that Lord Krishna killed the evil demon Pootna on the day of Holi. Lord Krishna’s maternal uncle Kansa knew that Krishna the eighth son of his sister Devaki- would end his life. Following is the birth, the baby Krishna was transferred safely home of Nand and Yashoda in Gokul. Kansa sent several demons to kill baby Krishna. When Pootna tried to breastfeed Krishna the poisoned milk, he sucks the life out of her. Evil Pootna fell dead on the floor. The end of Pootna happened on the day of Holi.
Holi celebrations continue for two days- Holi and or Dhulendi. It begins with the lighting of the sacred fire called Holika Dahan on the night of Holi. And the next morning, the colors or Dhulendi is played in a light-hearted manner.
Holika Dahan / Holi Bonfire
To Holika Dahan or Holi Bonfire is made from logs, leaves, twigs and other natural combustible materials. At night, the sacred bonfire is lit after the chanting of sacred mantras. This reminds us of the value of true faith and devotion to God.
The God of Fire-Agnideva is worshiped by presenting flowers, new crop grains and sweets on fire. Smearing of the sacred bonfire ash on the forehead is considered to be very auspicious. It is said to save us from the evil spirits.
Since then, people hug and wish, ‘Happy Holi’ or ‘Holi Mubarak and apply gulal and abeer in the other’s face.
The festival of Holi is the most beautiful and colorful festival is celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm in our country. There feast in the air with buzzing markets activity that traders are preparing for the festival. Lots of Gulal and other colors can be seen everywhere. Preparations begin with children buy pichkaris, water balloons and colors well ahead of Holi.
Various delicacies like Gujiya, Dahi-bhallas, Chaat- papri etc. prepare for the day.
Holi is the favorite festival of children, as free to play jokes and fun. On the day of Holi, people leave their homes and gather in parks to celebrate the festival. Men and women form groups called ‘tolis’ and move into their colonies and application of colors and exchange greetings.
The setting echoes the sounds of “Holi Hai ‘and dhol beats are made. Gulal different colors like red, yellow, green and orange sprayed into the air. We see colors and unique colors everywhere.
Children play with water balloons and pichkaris filled with colored water. People of all ages enjoy the party to the fullest. Shops and offices are closed during the day.
Apart from the cultural and mythological importance, Holi has its social relevance as well. On Holi, people forget their enemities and become friends. There is a feeling of love, affection and brotherhood around.
At night, people wear new clothes and visit friends and relatives and exchanging gifts, sweets and greetings.
Different forms of Holi
Holi is played in different ways in different parts of the country. The popular Holi is celebrated in the Braj region, in locations connected to the Lord Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana. These are the places associated with birth and childhood of Lord Krishna.
In these places, Holi is celebrated in a manner. The preparations and celebrations begin a month before Holi. The temples and streets are decorated tastefully. Here, Holi is played with gulal, abeer and flowers. The melodious and fascinating dances Holi songs are performed in the streets.
In the village of Barsana, the Lathmar Holi is played where women playfully beat the men with sticks. Also in Haryana Dhulendi Holi, it is customary to beat the men with a stick while playing Holi.
The game more enjoyable childhood mischief associated with Lord Krishna is the rupture of a uterus (pot) full of butter, for the young guys. It is most popular in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
In this game, the matki butter is hung too high. Thereafter, the boys make human pyramids and one of them gets on top of breaking matki head. While the children try to climb to the top, women and girls throw buckets of water over them to stop them reaching the top.
Throughout the game, people sing folk songs and dances associated with Holi on drums. It is a delight to see this wonderful game matki.
In West Bengal, Holi is celebrated as Basant Utsav or Dol Yatra. And in Sikhism, Holi is celebrated as Hola Mohhalla. People gather in Gurudwaras in greeting.
Health and Environment Hazards of Holi
Holi festival has always been associated with shades and colors. Tradition ally, Holi was played with natural colors made of flower petals. Such colors in the form of gulal and abeer were extracted from Tesu, Spinach, Henna, Beet, Turmeric, Marigold etc. However, in recent times, the Holi colors are made from artificial dyes, which contain toxic chemicals that are extremely harmful to our skin and can cause serious diseases of the skin and eyes. Many of such colors are having carcinogenic components.
Further, such artificial colors also have adverse impact on micro-flora and micro-fauna.