India is a country rich in festivals and events that bring the nation together in wonderful ways. Holi is one such festival that fills the hearts of the multitude with pure joy. Holi, also considered the festival of colors and love, is a spring festival highly regarded in Hinduism. Holi is known by many names in many areas: Dhulandi, Doul Yatra, Doul Jatra, Doul, Dhuleti and Phagwah. Celebrated on the Holika Poornima (full moon), this day is also observed as thanksgiving to the gods for good harvest. Holi is the most colorful festival of India as it is celebrated with color powders and colored water traditionally. Just like all other festivals, Holi also holds a special place in Hinduism due to its mythological significance. Read on to find out more about this wonderful festival.
What’s the Story behind Holi?
The most prominent legend behind Holi is the one about the king of the Asuras (demon deities) Hiranyakashyapu. Hiranyakashyapu was blessed by Brahma with 5 powers that rendered him unable to be killed: he could not be killed during either day or night, either by a human or an animal, either outdoor or indoor, either by astra (launched weapons) or shastra (handheld weapons) and either on land or in water.
Due to this boon, he became arrogant and demanded everyone in his kingdom to worship him. To his disappointment, Prahlada, his son, happened to be an eager devotee of Lord Vishnu. This enraged Hiranyakashyapu and led him to order the killing of his son.
Since Lord Vishnu was impressed by Prahlada’s faith in him, he saved his life every time an attempt was made to kill him. This led Holika, Hiranyakashyapu’s sister, to offer the killing herself. She was given a boon which made her immune to fire.
Holika sat on a burning pyre with Prahlada in her lap. According to legends, Holika burned despite her boon since her intentions were evil. Lord Vishnu saved Prahlada from getting burned.
This angered Hiranyakashyapu furthermore. However, Lord Vishnu himself appeared in the form of Narasimha which is part man and part lion that made him neither a man nor an animal. He carried Hiranyakashyapu on to the threshold of his palace which was neither outside nor inside a house, placed him on his lap – neither ground nor the sky – and disemboweled his body with his animal claws (neither handheld nor launched weapon). This victory of faith over evil is what makes Holi a festival that is celebrated with zeal all around.
A day before Holi, Holika Dahan is performed by burning a pyre that signifies the legend of Holika and Prahlada.
Holi Celebrations in India
Holi is essentially celebrated in order to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, however, Holi is also a celebration of the arrival of spring where people bid goodbye to winter and welcome summer with enthusiasm. This festival of colors anticipated with great zeal all year. Different places celebrate the festival in their own unique way. Let’s take a look at the most unique places where Holi is an event to wait for:
Located near Mathura, Barsana is a small village that is known for its own special way of playing Holi. Known as Lathmar Holi, women of the community beat up men with sticks playfully while men cannot hit back but take the blows with good humor. This event takes place 7 days before actual Holi.
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
A city in Rupnagar district of Punjab, Anandpur Sahib’s Holi is everything traditional woven into a three-day grand affair that ends on the day of Hola, the Sikh New Year. There’s music, festivities, martial art performances by men of Khalsa and dances that celebrate the arrival of spring in the most fun-filled fashion.
West Bengal’s fervor for Holi is not unknown. A small town near Bolpur, Shantiniketan observes the day of Doul (Holi in Bangla) with utmost zest. Also known as the Basanta Utsav, many cultural events are observed throughout the town with special rituals performed in temples.
Holi and Mathura cannot be mentioned separately. Mathura’s Holi celebration is world famous for its grandeur. Holi goes on for a whole week in this sacred city of Uttar Pradesh. The birthplace of Lord Krishna, Vrindavan gets drenched in faith, chants and colors on the occasion of Holi. The Banke Bihrai Temple is a world famous site for Holi celebrations. Gods and deities are first sprayed with colors and flowers while the crowds watch and cheer in unison. Sweets and colors are exchanged in great vigor.
Another region of the West Bengal that observes the festival of spring with ardour. Purulia celebrates Holi in the most folk manner with Baul musicians filling the air with folk songs of love and faith. This 3 day celebration is arranged solely by the villagers who make the most of this happy festival.
Pink City cannot remain behind when it comes to Holi. Processions of colored elephants and camels take place with dances, music, and festivities performed. People color each other with powders and colored water. Homemade delicacies are shared.
Banaras or Varanasi, is a paradise on the day of Holi with people brimming with joy all around the city. From early morning, you can see people playing with colors and water guns not leaving anyone clean on the streets. Bhaang (a form of cannabis) infused delicacies are savored for intoxication. The bhaang lassi of Banaras is especially famous. A rather dark form of Holi is also celebrated by the Aghoris (ascetic Shiva Sadhus) of Varanasi. They smear their bodies with the ashes of burned bodies on the funeral pyres of the ghats.
While everyone in every state and city has their own special way of celebrating this mighty festival, Holi is all about joy, coming together and sharing happiness in the form of colors. Urban cities arrange special pool parties and DJ events for youngsters who enjoy that non-traditional way of celebrating Holi. Delhi, Mumbai, Pune are some cities that observe the day of Holi with much enthusiasm; air filled with colors, music and fun, it’s a day to record!
Like we mentioned before, Holi is all about fun and fervor like no other. We wish you a safe and Happy Holi!