Holi (होली) is a colourful and happy Hindu holiday celebrated primarily in India on the last full moon of the lunar month of Phalguna at the end of the winter season.
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It falls in either late February or early March. It is also known as the Festival of Colours.
Holi is one of India’s grandest and most popular celebrations. This large festival is celebrated in many cities and rural areas throughout India, so there are plenty of opportunities for fun and excitement. The Holi festival traditionally celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is associated with many legends, including the story of Holika. Many people in India believe that this holiday shows that the devotion of Hindu people can augment the power of Lord Vishnu. This celebration also honors Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. In addition to its religious aspects, Holi also celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Holi is also known as the Festival of Colors. The holiday is officially celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Phalguna, but it is observed on different dates in some areas of India.
The Legends of Holi
There are various legends that are associated with the traditions of the Festival of Colors.
- Holika and Prahlad
The story of Holika and Prahlad is one of the most important stories for Holi. According to the Narada Purana, a Hindu holy text, there was a time when a demon king known as Hiranyakashyap ruled over the entire world. As a ruler, Hiranyakashyap was ruthless and expected every living being to worship him. To Hiranyakashyap’s surprise, Prahlad refused to worship him. Instead, Prahlad was devoted to Lord Naarayana. This was a major problem for Hiryakashyap since Prahlad was his son. Hiryakashyap tried to murder Prahlad on numerous occasions, but he was thwarted every time due to the efforts of Lord Vishnu.
After realizing that he would not be able to kill Prahlad, Hiryakashyap enlisted the help of Holika. Holika was a demon who was believed to be invulnerable to the effects of fire. Holika convinced Prahlad to sit in her lap. When Prahlad was within her reach, Holika grabbed him and sat into a pit of flames. Holika soon realized that she was only invulnerable to fire when she entered the flames alone. Since Holika was accompanied by Prahlad, the flames consumed her. Prahlad emerged from the fire unscathed. Prahlad later learned that Lord Naarayana granted him protection to reward him for his devotion. Many Hindus view this story as a reason to be loyal to Lord Vishnu and other important spiritual figures.
- Radha and Krishna
When Lord Krishna was young, he envied the fair skin of Radha. To express his envy, Krishna rubbed color onto Radha’s face. This act of showering another person with color is now considered to be an expression of friendship and love. This story forms the well-known tradition of showering other people with color during Holi celebrations.
Indian people participate in many celebratory activities to have fun and show their devotion for Lord Vishnu.
- Throwing Color
One of the most iconic activities of Holi is the throwing of colored water and powder in the streets of India’s cities. This is an exciting activity that is used to show devotion and respect to deities, friends, and family members.
- Worship the Idol of Radah
Radha is a Hindu goddess and the lover of Lord Krishna. According to traditional stories, Radah was the first woman to be showered with color as a show of love. To show respect for Radah, many people sing Holi songs and perform plays near the goddess’ idol.
To celebrate the triumph of good over evil during the story of Holika and Prahlad, many people build large bonfires on the eve of Holi. It is believed that these fires scare evil spirits by reminding them of Holika’s demise. The burning of the bonfires is a joyous activity. Many people use this occasion to dance, sing, and socialize with their friends and family members. This activity is known as Holika Dahan.
- Consumption of Bhang
Many festival-goers enjoy Holi by consuming bhang, a treat that is made from cannabis paste. This is traditional treat that is intended to help people relax during the festival.
There are many places to observe Holi in India. Since India is such a large country, each city has different cultures and unique ways to observe the Festival of Colors.
- Holi in Malthura is quite different from the festival in other areas of India. The festival in this area begins 40 days before the official start of Holi. This is an ideal location to visit for travelers who are interested in experiencing traditional Holi celebrations. It is believed that Lord Krishna was born in Malthura, so this area is very important to devout Hindus.
- Shantiniketan is suitable for people who would like to learn local dances and participate in cultural events. Since this area has a very active tourism bureau, it attracts many foreigners.
- The Holi celebrations in Peruli are oriented around a folk festival that showcases the traditional arts and music of the area. Since Peruli is a rural location, its festival is completely different from the large Holi celebrations in major Indian cities.
- The Sikh population in Anandpur Sahib celebrate Holi in their own ways. Instead of throwing colors, the people of this area have extravagant martial arts performance and competitions. Wrestling tournaments and acrobatic exhibitions are both common in this area of India.
- For travelers in search of exotic Holi celebrations, Jaipur is a great place to visit. The Festival of Color in this city is centered around elephants and upbeat music.
- Delhi is one of the best places to experience a modern Holi celebration. Festival-goers in Delhi can enjoy the most popular activities, music, and food.
Holi is a vibrant festival that gives Indians the opportunity to participate in fun activities with their friends and family members.
The festivities of Holi begin close to midnight on the night before Holi with bonfires being lit. Prior to the bonfires, it is traditionally the job of men and boys to collect fallen wood and leaves to burn in the bonfires as a part of the symbol of the end of winter. Some of this tradition is changing today with forest trees unfortunately being cut down for burning.
The colours of Holi are very special and add to the vibrancy of the day. In the past, the colours that were used on people’s skin were natural but many of them now are man-made and some even of dangerous chemicals leaving some people with skin inflammations. During the festivities of Holi, people throw or smear scented, colourful powders over each other.