Holi – Festival Of Colours
HOLI – THE FESTIVAL O COLOURS
Holi is one of the major festival of the vast country, called India. No wonder, a number of traditions, customs and festivals have cropped up around this very important festival. As the culture and language changes from one state to the other, nature, significance and the way these festivals related to Holi are celebrated also varies a lot. While in the state of Rajasthan women take the lead, men in Punjab have grabbed the festival as an opportunity to display their bravery and dare-devil skills. On the other hand, quiet and peace loving people of West Bengal celebrate the occasion in a dignified and charming fashion.
As the brief spring warms the landscape, northern India cuts loose for a day of hijinx and general hilarity. The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. 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.
Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centers around an arrogant king who resents his son Prahlada worshipping Lord Vishnu. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha.
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. Holi is now a days recognized as one of the oldest Hindu festivals. Its reference can be found in religious scriptures and sculptures on walls of old temples. There are paintings, which show royal couple sitting on grand swing and maidens playing music and spraying colors on them. Whatever the scene and the theme, colors and mythology have always been an important part of these Holi depictions. However the most important myths and stories that have been associated with Holi are given below:
Story Of Radha and Krishna:
Lord Krishna was dark while his spiritual love-mate Radha had fair-complexion. So child Krishna often used to complain about the injustice of nature towards him to his mother Yashoda and would ask her the reason. One day, Yashoda suggested Krishna to apply color on Radha’s face and changeher complexion in any color he desired. The naughty Krisha immediately set off to his mission and one can often see paintings and murals depicting Krishna throwing colors on Radha and other ‘gopis’. This lovable prank of throwing colored powder and water jets called ‘pichkaris’ soon gained favor with the people and it evolved into the tradition of Holi. This is the reason that people often carry images of Krishna and Radha through the streets. The Holi of Mathura region, where Krishna was born, has a special fervor.
Story of Dhundhi:
It was there was an ogress called Dhundi who used to scare and trouble children in the kingdom of Prithu. She has many boons, which made her almost invincible but due to a curse from Lord Shiva, she was susceptible to the shots, abuses and pranks of village boys. It is believed that on Holi day, these children united and made combined efforts to chase away Dhundi by shouting at her, abusing her and playing pranks on her and finally succeeded in their mission. This is the reason that young boys are allowed to use rude words on this day without anybody taking offence.
Story Of Holika and Prahlad:
There was a demon-king named Hiranyakashipu who won over the kingdom of earth and ordered everybody to worship him and not the God. However, his little son Prahlad refused to do so and continued to worship the almighty Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God. He tried many times to kill him but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. One of the sisters of the king named Holika had powers to walk through fire unharmed. Thus he ordered her to kill Prahlad by walking through the fire with him. However, Lord Vishnu came to his help and Prahlad was saved while Holika perished. Somehow, she didn’t knew that her powers were only effective if she entered the fire alone. Even today, bonfires are lit on the night of Holi in memory of the event and burning of the wicked aunt Holika.
Story Of Kamadeva:
After the death of his consort Sati, Lord Shiva was so shocked and hurt that he went into a deep meditation and stopped looking after his worldly responsibilities. This led to many complications in the world’s affairs. Thus, gods conspired to bring him out of his trance with the help of Goddess Parvati, who wished to marry the great lord and Kamadeva, the God of love, passion and lust. Though, mindful of the consequences, Kamadeva undertook the task for the world’s good and shot one of his love arrows on the great Lord who had mastered all the worldly temptations. As Shiva’s eyes opened, he was furious by the trick of Kamdeva and directed the wrath of his third eye on him and burned him on the spot. However, later he did give him an immortal life. It is believed that Lord Shiva burned Kamadeva on the day of Holi and thus, many people worship him for his sacrifice and offer him a mango blossoms that he loved and sandalwood paste to cool off the pain of his fatal burns.
Rituals preparations of Holi
Rituals of the ancient festival of Holi are religiously followed every year with care and enthusiasm. Days before the festival people start gathering wood for the lighting of the bonfire called Holika at the major crossroads of the city. This ensures that at the time of the actual celebration a huge pile of wood is collected.
Holika Dahan Celebrations
Then on the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Effigy of Holika, the devil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap is placed in the wood and burnt. For, Holika tried to kill Hiranyakashyap’s son Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee.
Children also hurl abuses at Holika and pray pranks, as if they still try to chase away Dhundhi who once troubled little ones in the Kingdom of Prithu. Some people also take embers from the fire to their homes to rekindle their own domestic fires.
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, especially thandai laced with bhang are 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 Celebrations in South India
In south India, however, people follow the tradition of worshiping Kaamadeva, the love god of Indian mythology. People have faith in the legend which speaks about the great sacrifice of Kaamadeva when he shot his love arrow on Lord Shiva to break his meditation and evoke his interest in worldly affairs. After, an eventful and fun filled day people become a little sober in the evening and greet friends and relatives by visiting them and exchange sweets. Holi special get togethers are also organized by various cultural organizations to generate harmony and brotherhood in the society.
Any how in all where HOLI HAI… Come holi and the streets will reverberate with the chants of Holi hai…Colours will fill the atmosphere as people throw abeer and gulal in the air showing great joy and mirth in the arrival of this Spring Festival. Days before Holi, the markets get flooded with the colours of every hues. This aptly sets the mood of the people till the actual day of Holi. It is such a colourful and joyous sight to watch huge piles of bright red, magenta, pink, green and blue every where on the streets. Buying those colours seems as you are bringing joys and colour to your home and into your life. Children take special delight in the festival and demand every colour in loads. They have so many plans in their mind. They have to be the first to apply colour to Mama, Papa, siblings and a big bunch of friends in their colony. Nobody could miss being coloured by them and of course, they need colour for that. These days it is easy to buy colours from the market but still some people do take up the task of making colours at home, usually from flowers of tesu and palash. These home made colours, have a special fragrance of love in them. The other option is to buy gulal which comes in bright shades of pink, magenta, red, yellow and green. ‘Abeer’ is made of small crystals or paper like chips of mica. This is mixed with the gulal for a rich shine. Mischievous ones, however, go for silver and gold paints on which no colour could be applied. Whatever be the choice of colour, nobody remains in their original texture at the end of the play. And everybody takes delight looking at the other. Really, the other name of the festival is FUN. And, it is not just children, but the young and the old alike who take delight in this joyous festival of colours. Seniors too, move in their tolis. Their enthusiasm is at times greater than that of their children as they forget the bars of age and follow their hearts. To youth, holi gives a chance to explore the heights of their enthusiasm as they climb the human pyramids to break the pot of buttermilk and to express their love to their beloved by applying colour. For, Holi knows no bars, everybody feels it is their right to enjoy and enjoy they do. Songs, dance, drinks and food everything goes in excess when it is time for Holi. It can be said, “Life turns Colourful” when it is time for Holi.
Today Holi is an excuse for Indians to shed inhibitions and caste differences for a day of spring fever and Big Fun. Teenagers spend the day flirting and misbehaving in the streets, quite often adults males are seen to grab an opportunity to spark colour on girls. Thus the holy message of the festival is charred with the natural flavour.
It’s a festival of gaiety but then there are few who make this festival, a festival of evil. They do this by infuriating the strangers by forcefully throwing colours on them; some use colours that are difficult to remove and unsafe for skin and health. Many take it as a day of drinking alcohol but we should not forget that Holi is a festival of triumph of good over evil. We must try to wash away all the evils in our hearts along with the colours and allow the colour of love to stay there forever and ever. This is the true spirit of Holi.
Dr. Ashiq Hussain
Govt Degree College Kishtwar
Find More Festivals Articles