One of the most popular festivals in India is the Holi Festival; held every year on the day of the full moon in the Hindu calendar month of Phalgun (March). Also known as the Spring Festival, Holi marks the end of the cooler winter months and the beginning of spring, a celebrated season as it brings warmer days, new produce, love and joy. Like many other festivals in India, Holi also signifies a victory of good over evil. As per ancient mythology, there is a legend of King Hiranyakashipu with who Holi is associated.
History of Holi
Hiranyakashipu was a king in ancient India who was like a demon. He wanted to take revenge for the death of his younger brother who was killed by Lord Vishnu. So to gain power, the king prayed for years. He was finally granted a boon. But with this Hiranyakashipu started considering himself God and asked his people to worship him like God. The cruel king has a young son named Prahalad, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahalad had never obeyed his father’s order and kept on worshiping Lord Vishnu. The King was so hard hearted and decided to kill his own son, because he refused to worship him. He asked his sister ‘Holika’, who was immune to fire, to sit on a pyre of fire with Prahalad in her lap. Their plan was to burn Prahalad. But their plan did not go through as Prahalad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu throughout was safe, but Holika got burnt to ashes. The defeat of Holika signifies the burning of all that is bad. After this, Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu. But it is actually the death of Holika that is associated with Holi. Because of this, a pyre in the form of bonfire is lit on the day before Holi day to remember the death of evil.
But how did colours become part of Holi? This dates back to the period of Lord Krishna (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) . It is believed that Lord Krishna used to celebrate Holi with colours and hence popularized the same. He used to play Holi with his friends at Vrindavan and Gokul. They used to play pranks all across the village and thus made this a community event. That is why till date Holi celebrations at Vrindavan are unmatched.
Holi is a spring festival to say goodbye to winters. In some parts the celebrations are also associated with spring harvest. Farmers after seeing their stores being refilled with new crops celebrate Holi as a part of their happiness. Because of this, Holi is also known as ‘Vasant Mahotsava’ and ‘Kama Mahotsava’.
Celebrate with colours
Great excitement can be seen in people on the next day when it is actually the time for the play of colours. Shops and offices remain closed for the day and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colours of gulal and abeer fill the air and people take turns in pouring colour water over each other.
Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons. Women and senior citizen form groups called tolis and move in colonies – applying colours and exchanging greetings. Songs, dance on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies are the other highlights of the day. Parties are often organized where people dance to music and greet each other with colors.
The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.
Some families hold religious ceremonies, but for many Holi is more a time for fun than religious observance. After a fun filled and exciting day, they spent the evening in sobriety when people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.
Holi festival may be celebrated with various names and people of different states might be following different traditions. But, what makes Holi so unique and special is the spirit of it which remains the same throughout the country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated.
Come and celebrate Holi and colours at Gujarat Hindu Society this year on March 12 @ 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. http://www.ghspreston.co.uk/calendar/hutashani-holi/