Holi – festival of colors

Holi – festival of colors

Holi  is a Hindu Spring festival, originating from  India. The festival is celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal. The festival  has spread to other areas of Asia and parts Western world through Diaspora from the Indian subcontinent. 

It is also known as the “festival of colours” or the “festival of love”.  The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. 

Holi – Indian Thanksgiving to nature :

It is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest.  It lasts for a night and a day, starting on the evening of the Full Moon day or pournima/purnima. In the month of Phalgun, which falls somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March in the Geographical calendar.

The first evening is known as Holika Dahan (burning of demon holika) or Chhoti Holi  and the following day as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandir or Phagwah.

Festival of colors – Holi :

The vibrancy of colors is something that brings in a lot of positivity in our ives and Holi being the festival of colors is actually a day worth rejoicing. Holi is a famous Hindu festival that is celebrated in every part of India with utmost joy and enthusiasm.

The ritual starts by lighting up the bonfire one day before the day of Holi and this process symbolizes the triumph of good over the bad. On the day of Holi people play with colours with their friends and families and in evening they show love and respect to their close ones with Abeer.

History of Holi :

Holi is an ancient festival of India and was originally known as ‘Holika’. The festivals finds a detailed description in early religious works such as Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutras.

Historians also believe that Holi was celebrated by all Aryans but more so in the Eastern part of India.

It is said that Holi existed several centuries before Christ. However, the meaning of the festival is believed to have changed over the years. Earlier it was a special rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families and the full moon (Raka) was worshiped.

Calculating the day of Festival :

There are two ways of calculating a lunar month- ‘purnimanta’ and ‘amanta’. In the former, the first day starts after the full moon; and in the latter, after the new moon. Though the amanta calculation is more common now, the purnimanta was very much in vogue in the earlier days.

According to this purnimanta calculation, Phalguna purnima was the last day of the year and the new year heralding the Vasanta-ritu (with spring starting from next day). Thus the full moon festival of Holika gradually became a festival of merrymaking, announcing the commencement of the spring season. This perhaps explains the other names of this festival – Vasanta-Mahotsava and Kama-Mahotsava.

The Legend of Holika and Prahlad :

The Legend :  There was once a demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father.

Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.

Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.

Other stories :

Holi also celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which describes the extreme delight, Krishna took in applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank of Krishna later, became a trend and a part of the Holi festivities.

Mythology also states that Holi is the celebration of death of Ogress Pootana who tried to kill infant, Krishna by feeding poisonous milk to it.

Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.

Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief in the legend, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan.

Reference about Holi in Ancient texts and inscriptions :

Besides having a detailed description in the Vedas and Puranas such as Narad Purana and Bhavishya Purana, the festival of Holi finds a mention in Jaimini Mimansa. A stone inscription belonging to 300 BC found at Ramgarh in the province of Vindhya has mention of Holikotsav on it. King Harsha, too has mentioned about holikotsav in his work Ratnavali that was written during the 7th century.

The famous Muslim tourist – Ulbaruni too has mentioned about holikotsav in his historical memories. Other Muslim writers of that period have mentioned, that holikotsav were not only celebrated by the Hindus but also by the Muslims.

Reference in Ancient Paintings and Murals :

The festival of Holi also finds a reference in the sculptures on walls of old temples. A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene of Holi. The painting depicts a Prince and his Princess standing amidst maids waiting with syringes or pichkaris to drench the Royal couple in colourd water.

A 16th century Ahmednagar painting is on the theme of Vasanta Ragini – spring song or music. It shows a royal couple sitting on a grand swing, while maidens are playing music and spraying colors with pichkaris.

Social Significance:

Holi helps to bring the society together and strengthen the secular fabric of our country. For, the festival is celebrated by non-Hindus also as everybody like to be a part of such a colorful and joyous festival.

Also, the tradition of the Holi is that even the enemies turn friends on Holi and forget any feeling of hardship that may be present. Besides, on this day people do not differentiate between the rich and poor and everybody celebrate the festival together with a spirit of brotherhood.

In the evening people visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings. This helps in revitalizing relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between family and friends.

HAPPY HOLI TO ALL FROM BANGALOREAN.COM TEAM.

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