Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India and around the world by non-Indians.
Colors, flowers, and other items are used to ‘play’ Holi in various parts of the country. Choti Holi or Holika Dahan and Dhulandi are the two days when the festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. It commemorates the triumph of good over evil, and this year Holika Dahan falls on March 17th. Since the pandemic is stable and restrictions have been lifted, Dhulandi will fall on March 18 and will be celebrated properly with all rituals.
Holika Dahan, also known as Chhoti Holi, is the day on which religious rituals and ‘pujas’ are performed. The holy fire is lit, and people perform parikrama around it to commemorate Prahlada’s victory over his evil father Hiranyakashyap, who attempted to kill him. To commemorate the festival, people sing, clap, and dance around the fire. The following day is Badi Holi or Dhulandi, which is marked by proper celebrations that include playing with water and colors with one another. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the festival is celebrated in grand style. The long procession of Holi celebrations takes place in parts of Uttar Pradesh such as Barsana, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, and Mathura-Vrindavan.
In addition to lavish celebrations, Uttar Pradesh introduced Widow’s Holi two years ago, which is considered one of the most revolutionary changes in the state of Uttar Pradesh given the strict rules that have been in place.
What is the legend behind the celebration of the festival?
Hiranyakashyap, an evil king who performed penance to Lord Brahma and became nearly invincible, was envious of his son, Prahlad, whom he desired to kill. He tried throwing him off a cliff, attacking him with his soldiers, sending snakes to bite him, and other methods, but Lord Vishnu always saved Prahlad. He finally begged his demon sister Holika (who was immune to fire) to sit in the burning fire with Prahlad in her lap and burn him alive. Prahlad began praying to Lord Vishnu as he sat in the fire with Holika, causing a gust of wind to blow Holika’s shawl off her face and onto Prahlad. Hiranyakashyap’s demon sister was thus killed while he was still alive.
What is the significance of Holi?
The festival commemorates the triumph of good over evil, as the legend depicts the death of Holika, who represents evil, and the victory of Prahlad, who was a noble person and thus protected by the great Lord himself. It also signals the end of a long winter and the beginning of spring.
How old is the festival of Holi?
Documents, poems, and other written works mentioning Holi date back to the fourth century CE. The festival is highly regarded due to its association with Lord Krishna and Vishnu.
Why are colors used on Holi?
When people first started playing Holi, they used the colors of Neem, Haldi, bilva, palash, and other plants because the effect of colors on the human body was thought to be healing.
What are the other reasons behind the celebration of this festival?
In addition to the legend and arrival of spring, Holi marks the beginning of a new harvest season and also celebrates love.