Colour and variety are synonymous with Indian culture, beliefs, and way of life. A country steeped in traditions, India charms and bedazzles all her visitors with a kaleidoscopic rendezvous. Every street, every city, and every corner has a story to tell — all you have to do is listen. But it is tradition, culture, and celebrations that truly bring this country together. One of the most symbolic in the country is called Holi Festival of Colours.
Holi, the festival of Colours, is celebrated in different corners of India on full moon day in the month of Phalgun, which is the month of February/March as per the Gregorian calendar. ‘Holi’ marks the onset of spring. The word Holi comes from the word “hola” which means to offer prayers to the gods for good harvest.
A festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, Holi is a celebration of the arrival of spring and harvests to come. It’s the Holi festival of colours, emotions, and happiness. And what better way to express yourself than with the vibrant colours of the rainbow? Throwing of colours to each other is the signature of this festival. Therefore, it is often referred to as the Festival of Colours.
The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of coloured water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name “Festival of Colours.”The country comes alive with mesmerizing hues of blues, yellows, magentas, greens, violets, and more. Clouds of colours dancing in the wind carry the message of love and happiness across walls, neighbours, and hearts.
Brightly coloured powders are the mainstay of the Holi festival, during which men, women, and children carry powders and liquid colours to throw and smear on the clothes and faces of neighbours and relatives. While dry powder colours are called “gulal,” colours mixed with water are called “rang.” Tables with bags of colours line the entrance as neighbours and family await the others to enter the grounds. It’s a day to celebrate and let go — loud music, local brews, and fun-filled chatter are all essential elements of the celebrations.
But most importantly, Holi is the day when you will see the streets and homes of India doused in almost every colour imaginable. Each colour has significance, religious or otherwise. And there is a colour for nearly every occasion, moment, or celebration. Each colour symbolizes a force in life, and thus, colour and life are inseparable.
Mythological Significance of Holi
There are a number of mythological stories that are associated with the significance of Holi festival. The most popular is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap. Hiranyakashyap was a powerful demon king who wanted others to worship him like God. But his own son, Prahlad, was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Enraged by this, he tried to kill Prahlad by different means but could not succeed. Frustrated, he asked his sister ‘Holika' (who had a cloak which prevented her from being burnt in fire), to trick Prahlad into entering a bonfire with her.
Prahlad willingly entered the bonfire with ‘Holika'. And such was the grace of God on Prahlad that the cloak slipped from ‘Holika’s' shoulder onto Prahlad’s. Thus, ‘Holika' got burnt to death while Prahlad came out unscathed.
The ‘Holika' bonfire that is lit on Holika Dahan is the symbolic victory of good over evil.
In some parts of the country, after Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) people put ash on their forehead and also mix Chandan (paste of sandal wood) with the young leaves and flowers of the Mango tree and consume with a believe that it would promote good health.
Legend of Krishna
Lord Krishna, as a baby, had turned blue when he was fed poisoned milk by the she-demon, ‘Putna'. When Krishna grew up and saw that he was the odd one out with blue skin, he would keep pestering his mother, Yashoda, about it.
His lady love, Radha, was very fair. “Would she love him with this colour?” That was the question that troubled him. Tired of his questions, one day, his mother, asked him to colour Radha any colour he wanted.
Krishna happily did so and since then on this day, which marks the day of Holi, people colour others’ faces as a gesture of love. People also worship and then smear the deities of Radha and Krishna with colours.
Cultural Significance of Holi
The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad reassures the people of the victory of good over evil. It lays stress on the importance of devotion to God and of following a virtuous life.
This is also the time when the fields are in full bloom and the farmers come together to rejoice in anticipation of celebrating a good harvest.
Social Significance of Holi
Holi, as a festival, has rich social significance as it helps to strengthen the secular fabric of our country. The festival brings together people from different religions and socio-economic backgrounds. Enmity of any kind is put aside on this day and everyone hugs each other while applying colors. Holi, is thus a day to forgive and forget animosity.
Holi is a festival celebrated in great revelry and belief, where citizens of the country paint the skies and their surroundings in the magnificent colors of joy.
Today, keeping pace with technological advancements, the primary colors used initially have been supplemented by metallic hues and various unimaginable shades and mixtures. But the spirit of the festival remains the same. It cuts across all classes, castes, and religions and brings people together. Together, they celebrate the onset of spring by filling their day and life with the colors of joy, prosperity, happiness, and peace.
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