HOLI - A COLOURFUL EXPERIENCE
Holi, known as the festival of colours and love, is all about the triumph of good over evil. It is celebrated predominantly in India, but Hindus around the world celebrate it as well.
Holi is known for being a day to get along with others, wash away past sins and forget & forgive. There are many legends describing Holi’s significance, let us have a look at a few of them.
First there is the Lord Krishna legend. It is said, according to Hindu mythology, that Krishna was poisoned by Putana (a demoness) and his skin colour turned out very dark. She breastfed him with poison in hopes of killing him, but Krishna survived. Krishna later in his life meets a girl named Radha, who he questions if she will like him despite the colour of his skin. Krishna’s mother tells him to approach Radha and to ask her to paint any colour she desires on him. She does so, and ever since this playful colouring has become a tradition in Hindu culture.
Next there is the Vishnu legend. There was once a king named Hiranyakashipu who had special powers that stopped him from being killed by many circumstances, which made him believe he was a God and that everyone around him should worship him. His son, Prahlada, did not agree with this notion his father came up with, and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu. This made Hiranyakashipu very upset and gave his son punishments, but this did not change Prahlada’s way of thinking, nor did it impact him painfully. Prahlada’s evil aunt Holika tricked Prahlada into sitting with her on a pyre, while she wore inflammable clothing and Prahlada was not. The clothing few off his aunt and wrapped around Prahlada, so he survived but his evil aunt did not. It is then said that Vishny took the form of half a human and half a lion and managed to kill king Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire and Holi symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
A final legend is the Kama and Rati legend, which is believed by those who practice Shaivism (the worshipping of Lord Shiva) and Shaktism. Lord Shiva was in a deep state of meditation and goddess Parvati wanted to bring him back into the present moment, so she sought the help of Kamadeva, the God of Love, who shot arrows at Shiva. Then the yogi burns Kama into ashes, which upsets Kama’s wife Rati and Parvati, so Rati performs meditation for 40 days, and Shiva forgives and restores Kamadeva. Holi is celebrated as the marking of Kamadeva’s return.
Celebrations by Region1
In Assam, a state in northeastern India, Holi is celebrated two days in a row. On the first day of Holi, clay huts are burned to symbolize the legends of Holika and on the second day it is celebrated by throwing colourful powders at people. Religious songs are also chanted.
In Bihar Holi is known as Phaguwa and the legend of Holika is most predominant. People light bonfires and put dried cow dung cakes, Araad wood, Redi tree, Holika tree, grains from harvest and unwanted food into the bonfire. Family members visit other families and throw and put coloured powders on each other’s faces and bodies and this continues throughout the day. Songs are sung and a lot of dancing occurs as well.
In Goa, Holi is called Ukkuli and it is celebrated at a temple called Gosripuram temple.
In Gujarat, Holi is also a two day festival like it is in Assam. A bonfire is light on the evening of the first day of Holi and people put corn and raw coconut into the bonfire. On the second day people throw coloured powder at each other in celebration. In the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pit of buttermilk is installed high in the streets and boys climb on top of one another in hopes of reaching the pot and breaking it open, while girls attempt to stop them by throwing coloured water at them.
In Jammu and Kashmir, Holi is marked as the beginning of the harvest festival of summer crop and coloured powder is thrown at one another. There is also a lot of singing and dancing involved in the celebrations.
In Karnataka, children collect money from elders and a bonfire is lit. Here Holi is also celebrated two days in a row, and special food is prepared for celebration.
Unlike other states in India, in Maharashtra, Holi is celebrated for five to seven days in a row. Children go around the villages collecting money and firewood from other families and a bonfire is lit with the firewood. Meals are prepared by every household to share as a community. People practice forgiveness with others.
In Odisha icons of Krishna and Radha are replaced by icons of Jagannath.
In Manipur, a northeastern state in India, Holi is celebrated for six days in a row, as it is merged with the festival of Yaosang, Yaosang is a five day long festival celebrated in spring. Children go from house to house collecting money and gifts on the first two days of the six days. A folk dance called Thabal Chongba is performed on the full moon and folk songs are sung as well.
In Telangana, a state in the south-central part of India, children celebrate Holi by collecting money, vegetables and wood for weeks before Holi even comes around. All the wood is put together one night and is lit on fire.
Holi Colours & Powder1
Each of the colours of Holi powder are made of different ingredients that give them that colour. For red and orange, the flowers of the Butea monosperma plant is what is used to give it that colour. As for green, the dried leaves of Delonix regia trees give it the warm shade of green. Turmeric is used for yellow, indigo plants for blue, beetroot for purple and gooseberry is used for black. This is just a list of the common plants used for these colours, but there are many, many more plants used for creating these vibrant colours for Holi powder.
In conclusion, Holi is known as the festival of colours. It is celebrated differently in various parts of India and all around the world. We discussed how a few of the states of India celebrate it differently, and how plants are used to create the vibrant colours of the powder used to play Holi. Overall, this festival is observed to celebrate good over evil and have a lot of fun while doing so!
- Holi. (2021, March 05). Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi