Holi is just around the corner and each one of us is eagerly waiting for its arrival. This festival of colours is the ultimate gala time for the students. So here we are continuing our tradition of bringing comprehensive information for our students and teachers as well. Through this essay, we will be providing you with ample knowledge on one of the most joyful festivals celebrated in our country.
Origins of the Festival of Holi: When Good Triumphed Evil
As per Hindu mythology, the origins of Holi date back to the time of Lord Vishnu. There was a demon king called Hiranyakashipu who was granted special powers by Lord Brahma. With time he grew very powerful and arrogant and began to consider himself greater than the gods. So much so, that he asked all the people to worship him instead of the gods.
His young son, Prahlad, however, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and therefore, refused to accept his father as a god. Angry, the demon king Hiranyakashipu tried several ways to kill his own son but Prahlad survived each attempt.
Finally, King Hiranyakashipu turned to his sister Holika for help in killing Prahlad. Holika had been granted special powers by the gods and was immune to fire. So, she took Prahlad on her lap and sat in a pyre, since fire could not touch her, it was expected young Prahlad would burn to death.
Since Prahlad was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, he was protected by the Lord and it was Holika who burnt to death instead. Soon after, an enraged Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu and Prahlad went on to rule as a pious and popular King.
The killing of Holika, and subsequently her brother, Hiranyakashipu, marks the victory of good over evil and ever since, the festival of Holi is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna, as per Hindu calendar.
The festival of Holi is also celebrated as the “Vasant Mahotsava” and “Kama Mahotsava” and marks the end of winter and the onset of spring. This is also the beginning of the harvest season which represents prosperity and joy for all.
From Holika Dahan to the Colours of Holi
In many parts of India, Holi is celebrated over three days while in some places, the celebrations extend a fortnight.
Day 1 (Holi Purnima or full moon day): Traditionally, female members of the family prepare water colours in small earthen pots and arrange the same in colourful patterns. The eldest male member then initiates the celebrations by sprinkling colour on family members.
Day 2 (Puno or Choti Holi): On the night of Puno, people light a bonfire to mark the death of Holika and the survival of Prahlad, to celebrate victory of good over evil.
Day 3 (Parva or the day of Holi celebrations): This is the day when people celebrate with colours, across India.
It must be noted that while the origins of Holi are tied to the death of Holika (in another period) and marked by the burning of the symbolic bonfire, the festival of colours dates back to the time of Lord Krishna, who was the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.
It was to celebrate Krishna’s mischievous play of colours with Radha and her mates (Gopis), that people of the region used colours to celebrate Holi. Ever since, the festival of Holi has been associated with colours.
This has been depicted in Raas Leela – a popular dance form of Braj. Today, Holi is celebrated in not only India but in many other parts of the world as well.
Forms of Holi Celebrations
Holi has many regional interpretations and therefore, the forms of celebration vary.
Lath Mar Holi of Barsana
As per legend, Lord Krishna of Nandgaon visited Radha and her friends in Barsana and playfully teased them. Angry at this, Radha along with her Gopis chased Krishna away with a stick.
Ever since, the men of Nandgaon recreate the event by visiting the women of Barsana and playfully teasing them. In turn, the women symbolically beat up the men with sticks, which is accompanied with a riot of colours, dance and celebrations.
Braj Festival and Dolchi Holi of Bikaner
The colourful state of Rajasthan celebrates the Braj festival that extends for almost a month and includes the Dolchi Holi of Bikaner. Dolchi Holi is a play of water colours stored in colourful camel skin bags called Dolchi.
Local communities of Harsh and Vyas have been celebrating Holi with vigour for centuries. Today, however, Holi has emerged as a universal festival, which attracts international tourists to Rajasthan, who come from various parts of the world, just to be a part of this wonderful colour festival.
Foods of Holi
India is a land of exotic and varied cuisines but this is not restricted to regions alone. Most festivals have their own unique cuisine that is specially prepared in homes during the festive period.
The famous mouthwatering Gujjia remains a favourite during Holi and is a must in most homes. Holi is just not complete without this unique sweetmeat made from dairy-fresh Khoya/ Mawa and stuffed with almonds, pistachio, resins, saffron and green cardamom.
Malpractices Associated with Holi
While Holi remains a popular festival and is celebrated by all ages, there are some rather negative practices that have come to be a part of the celebrations.
In the earlier days, Holi was played using natural colours derived from flowers of ‘Teshu’ and ‘Palash’ trees. These were actually beneficial to the skin. However, over time, colours made of all kinds of chemicals are being widely used. In some cases, the use of harmful chemicals have resulted in skin injuries and allergies. People are well advised to use only natural colours made from organic sources.
The other negative practice associated with Holi is the use of alcohol. This must be discouraged by all, as it only leads to spoiling the fun and frolic associated with this lively festival.