Holi the festival of colors, the festival of celebrating spring and some even consider it as the festival of colors. Whatever we may consider it is one of the most joyfully celebrated festival in India. In fact, Holi is also getting supremely popular in Western countries and other parts of Asia too. The excitement in people is what makes Holi the festival of celebrating every beautiful aspect of love, laughter, and togetherness.
The blossoming of love during Holi is symbolic of the arrival of spring when the dry chilly winters bid us goodbye. The celebrations start from the evening of full moon day of the spring harvest season which is recognized as Choti Holi.
Holi has also attracted the interest of many US and European countries as they utilize the concept of this festival and organize different charity events, social conventions, and for-profit activities.
History of Holi Festival
If we trace back the historic beginnings of Holi as a festival then it can be considered as a primordial festival or cultural ritual. The different aspects of Holi have different and fascinating tales adhered to it. Detailed historic descriptions have been mentioned in holy books like Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa Sutras and Kathaka Grhya-Sutras. It is also described in the religious literature of Dasakumara Charita. Kalidasa who was the greatest Sanskrit writer and poet mentioned Holi in his works during the reign of Chandragupta II. One of the prime Holi references were given in a four-act Sanskrit drama called Ratnavali.
Reference in Historic Paintings
Holi celebration and inscriptions can be found in Stone placings at Ramarh, Vindhya. Vasant Ragini – which is a popular painting of the 16th century is located in Ahmednagar. The name means ‘spring song’ and the painting represents a King with his Queen merrily swinging on a grand swing while their maidens are sprinkling colorful water. In the temple of Hampi, there is a painting belonging to the same era. It shows a Prince and his Princess celebrating among their minors who are playfully seeking them to soak them in colorful water. Another famous reference can be taken from the Circa painting of 1755 which shows a center tank filled with colored water, surrounded by Maharana and his courtiers.
Ancient Mythology and Legends
The birthday of Shiva Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (AD 1486 – AD 1533) is celebrated during Holi festivities by the people of Bengal and Orissa in India. The ‘love’ virtue associated with Holi is because it is believed that Lord Krishna loved playing with colors, teasing and fondly applying colors on his Radha and other Gopis.
The Holi festival has huge cultural significance in India and among the numerous Hindu traditions. On this day all bad and evil are conquered over by the triumphs of good. This is based on the old Vishnu legend which is reacted every year by the Holika bonfire. It is believed that the arrogant King Hiranyakashipu wanted everyone to worship and believe him as a God. But his own son Prahlada paid no attention towards his demand. He remained devoted to Lord Vishnu which made the King very angry. He asked Holika, Prahlada’s evil aunt to resolve this issue. She tricked him and made him sit on a pyre with her. The pyre burned and Holika who was wearing a cloak thought that it would only burn and kill the boy. On the contrary, Prahlada survived and Holika was engulfed in the pyre. The King too was killed by Lord Vishnu’s ‘Narsimha’ avatar.
Holi is a significant celebration of forgiveness and ending past conflicts. People start the spring as a new year and forget all the past errors.
Commonly Holi celebrations go on for two days. The first day is rejoiced by burning Holika pyre in the evening. While the second day is celebrated by using colorful powders called ‘Gulal’. Traditionally the colors were made from herbal extracts of Neem, Haldi or Kumkum. These extracts when powdered and played with showed some medical significance too in the changing season. In some states like Manipur, Holi is celebrated for an extended period of 6 days. In Barpeta, Assam people sing together beautiful melodies of Lord Krishna. The people of Bihar and Jharkhand clean their houses and visit each other in the evening. For Goan people, Holi is known as Konkani or ‘Sigma’. The festival takes a long extensive form here and ends after a whole month. In Gujrat, the people of the Ahmedabad region put buttermilk pots high on the streets with the help of ropes. Young boys in groups form pyramids to reach the high hung pots and break it. The boy who reaches the top is called the Holi King. The people from Sirsi, Karnataka perform Bedara-Vesha which is a folk dance. It is performed for 5 days before the day of Holi celebration. In the Braj region, North Indian women playfully hit men with sticks who try to shield themselves. This is the famous ‘Lath Mar’ ritual which is celebrated around Radha Rani temple. People from all around India play with Gulal, coloring each other with lots of different shades. Thus the major part of Holi obviously colors.
Nowadays, synthetic colors are majorly used. Since these colors are not herbal, special safety should be taken while using them. The excitement and happiness can be felt by everyone and such is the magic of this great festival ‘Holi’.