History behind the festival of colors, Holi

Lathmar holi celebration

Syona Sachdeva 

As the summer knocks on the doors and winters slowly moves out, comes the holi. The festival has a mythological and a scientific reason to be celebrated but most important is the way it is celebrated. People put different colors (gulal) on each other going from home to home. Gujiya, Papdi, and many other snacks are made for the family and guests who come to greet

Countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Australia and many others also celebrate this day performing the various activities of Holi.

Mythological significance- victory of good over evil

Many might wonder where the term ‘Holi’ originally came from or why Holi is even celebrated or why is it that we burn Holika a night before we play with colors. There are many legends that explain the reason for celebrating this festival but the most prominent one being the tale of Hiranyakashyap.

According to the Narad Purana, this day is celebrated to mark the Prahlad’s victory over the demon king Hiranyakashyap and his aunt Holika. The devil king has wished everybody in his kingdom to worship him like god and denied devotion to any other god. Meanwhile, his son Prahlad became a follower of Lord Vishnu. This was unacceptable to the king and an insult to his power. Hiranyakashyap ordered his son to sit in the fire along with his aunt ‘Holika’ as she was immune from fire due to the magical cloak she wore.  As instructed, Holika sat in fire with Prahlad in lap. But it did not worked out as planned. When fire roared, the cloak flew to Prahlad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu and Holika turned into ashes.

After this Lord Vishnu appeared and killed the cruel king Hiranyakashyap.

It is the defeat of Holika that signifies the victory of good over evil and hence every year Holika is burnt to celebrate the victory of good.

Legend of Radha-Krishna

But why play with colors? Why spoil our clothes and paint ourselves with colors?The reason takes us back to the story of Radha-Krishna.

Krishna being dark blue colored was always jealous of fair Radha. One day, notorious Krishna complained to his mother about the skin difference they both had. Mother, to boost his confidence, asked Krishna to color her with any color he wanted, making her look similar to him. Kanha took his mother Yashoda’s advice and colored Radha. They then became a couple and the trend of playing with colors started.

Beliefs in South India

People of South India wholeheartedly believe Lord Kaamadeva– the lord of love and passion. It is said that when Lord Shiva’s wife Sati died after she took the form of the goddess, Lord Shiva was left in grief. He was angry and sad. He detached himself from the matters of the world and went into deep meditation. The complications and destruction began. The gods then asked for help from Lord Kaamadeva to bring Lord Shiva back to normal.

Kaamadeva, well aware of the consequences he might have to suffer, shoot his arrow on Lord Shiva while he was meditating. This made him furious, he opened his third eye and turned Kaamadeva into ashes. But the arrow worked on Shiva and he married Parvati who had been worshiping and meditating to acquire Shiva as her husband.

After a while Lord Shiva revived Kaamadeva on the request of his wife, Rati. Thus, everyone was happy in the end.

It is believed that it was the day of Holi when Lord Kaamadeva sacrificed his life and was turned into ashes. The people, hence, celebrate the sacrifice of the ‘Love god’.

When is it celebrated?

 Holi is known as the festival of spring which is a two days festival. It starts on the Purnima (full moon day) in the month of Falgun which falls in between the end of February and mid of March.

On the first day, Holika is burnt in remembrance of Prahlad’s victory. People start collecting pieces of woods many days before and finally light the huge pile collected on the first day. This day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi.

The succeeding day is the day of colors, known as Rangwa Holi or Dhulandi when friends and family get together to spray colors on each other. The day is enjoyed with dry and wet colors as well as water. Feeling of love, joy, togetherness, forgiveness is shared among people.

Why visit Mathura Vrindavan during Holi?

 Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, celebrates the fun filled festival for a week. Holi is an important Indian religious festival in Mathura as well as Vrindavan where Krishna was brought up. The cities situated in Uttar Pradesh celebrates the festival in different temples, one temple on each day of the week.

One of the significant temple and tourist attraction is ‘Bakai-Bihari’ temple of Vrindavan where people are full of the spirit of Holi and love for Lord Krishna.

Yet another interesting place is Gulal-Kund where the enactments of the Holi take place near the river side. Boys dressed up as Krishna display the stories of Holi for the pilgrims.

Near Mathura, in the town of Barsana and Nandgaon, Lath Mar Holi takes place where women beat up men with lathis (sticks). Men protect themselves from women with a shield. Thousands of people come to witness the strength of women and skills of men in this friendly fight.

This festival of colors marks the celebration of good over evil, beginning of the spring, joy of being together and sharing the love and building up relationships. Let us all get blended in colors and enjoy the day.

Also: Read at NewsGram how Holi is celebrated at different place outside India: www.newsgram.com/holi-celebrating-colors-of-joy-across-the-world/

Syona Sachdeva is an engineering student who likes to write on many issues