With its rich traditional and cultural heritage, Indians are bound to be celebrating some festival every month or so. One such festival is Holi, a fun, colorful and inclusive festival.
If someone was to ask me, to name my favorite festival, it would be Holi without any doubt. I have lovely childhood memories of playing Holi and my parents and grandparents telling me about the various Holi stories and traditions. And now as a parent myself, I love passing on these stories and traditions to my boys.
- Legend of Prahlad
There are myriad legends associated with Holi, the most popular one is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap.
Legend has it that Hiranyakashyap was a powerful Asura (demon) king and had gained a boon of immortality. He wanted to be worshipped by all. But his own son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashyap. He tried to kill his own son by many cruel means but was unsuccessful. Finally, he sought the help of his evil sister ‘Holika’. Holika had a cloak which made her immune to injury from fire. She tricked Prahlad into entering a bonfire with her. As the fire roared, the cloak slipped from Holika’s shoulder to Prahlad’s. Holika got burnt to death, while Prahlad came out of it unscathed. Thus, started the ritual of Holika Dahan, Holika bonfire, signifying victory of good over evil.
- Legend of Lord Krishna
Lord Krishna, as a baby, turned blue when he was fed poisoned milk by the she-demon named ‘Putna’. Growing up he whined, to his mother, about his dark complexion and wondered why his lady love ‘Radha’ was so fair. One day his mother playfully suggested him to color Radha any color he wanted. So, Krishna applied colors on Radha’s face and thus was introduced the colorful festival of Holi.
The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad reassures the people of the victory of good over evil. It is a day to forgive and forget, rid oneself of any past errors, make friends and end all conflicts.
Holi also marks the start of spring, to beautiful fresh beginnings.
Holi is a day of celebration. It is also the day you get to celebrate the true secular fabric of India. People from different religions, socio-economic backgrounds, regions come together embrace and apply color on each other.
Days before the festival, people start gathering wood and combustible materials for the bonfire in parks and other open spaces. On the eve of Holi, typically after sunset, Holika pyre is lit signifying ‘Holika Dahan’. The ritual symbolizes the victory of good over evil. People gather around the fire to sing and dance.
On Holi day, groups of kids, men and women, loaded with dry colored powder, balloons filled with colored water, come out to open areas to play with family, friends and even strangers. This day is for partying and pure enjoyment.
After a day of play with colors, people clean up, shower and dress up. They then visit family and friends and end the day with festive food and sweets..
And thus, ends the Holi day and starts the wait for the next Holi.
It is a festival one must experience!