Holi Festival: The Carnival of Colours
Holi is celebrated as a festival of colours in India and across the world. It is the festival of colours, emotions, happiness and It is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil. It also marks the beginning of spring. The purpose of the festival is to bridge the gap in social circle and have a cordial relationship between the people in the locality. People share joy with each other irrespective of class, creed, age, gender etc. Although it is primarily a Hindu religious festival, people all across religions celebrate with great joy and enthusiasm. The festival is celebrated in the month of Phalgun on Pournami day (full Moon), which is in the month of March or sometimes in February as per Gregorian calendar.
Significantly, importance is given more on sharing of love and togetherness than on religious ceremonies in celebrating Holi. People will all walks of life will come together, play and laugh, forget and forgive each other and celebrate with joy. The celebrations start on the eve of the Holi, with Holika Dahan, where the effigy of Holika, the evil sister of demon hiranyakashipu is burnt. People gather around the bonfires and they dance, sing and laugh. Next morning after some religious ceremonies, the carnival of colours starts. People throw dry coloured powder or coloured water on each other. Young participants use water guns and water filled balloons. Whole street and parks are filled with colour. There will be musical performances and people sing, dance and party whole day. People forget all the differences within them. They visit friends and family and share food, drinks, sweets etc. In some places, some kind of intoxicating drink called Bhang is used. (Also Read: What is Bhang and Bhang recipes)
Significance of Colours
The beauty of the Hinduism is that every aspect of it has a deeper meaning. We need to be broad minded in understanding the ancient culture. The festival is not only about fun and joy, it also has medicinal significance which is used in colour therapy. Each colour has its own significance and represents its own nature. Colours will affect mind and emotions. Our body is also made up of several colours and there can be imbalance of colours in the body more so at the time of seasonal changes. The festival is celebrated at the time of ending of winter and starting of summer. Body is more prone to get the disease in this time. In ancient times, colours were prepared from flowers and other natural ingredients like neem, turmeric, ginger, cumin etc. The flowers will be dried in the Sun and then a fine powder is made. Likewise other natural herbs will be used. And it is mixed in water to make a pigment. These sattvik fragrance provides nourishment to the body and the mind. The colour which is deficient in the body will be supplemented in this manner. However, today we use colours made of chemicals which will have long lasting impact on our body. (You can read here to know how to prepare natural colours).
The legends behind Holi Festival
The name Holi is derived from ‘Holika’, who is a sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. He was a king of Multan and was very arrogant towards people. He had obtained a boon, that made him immensely powerful and undefeated. He challenged the gods and conquered the world. He thought himself to be a God and ordered everyone in the kingdom to worship him. However, his own son Prahlada, who was a small boy at that time, did not obey the order and worshipping Lord Vishnu. Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. The father got enraged and he ordered to punish Prahlada. He subjected Prahlada for severe punishments but it could not deter the determination of Prahlada. Every time when he was going through the punishment, he was chanting Vishnu’s name and would come out unhurt. Finally, after failed with all the ways, hiranyakashipu asked his sister Holika to enter the blazing fire along with Prahlada. She was wearing a cloak that made her immune from fire injuries. As the fire roared, to the amazement of everyone, the cloak flew and encircled Prahlada. Thus prahlada survived and Holika got burnt. And Lord Vishnu appeared and killed HIranyakashipu. The next day when fire cooled down, people applied ash on their forehead and celebrated with joy.
As per the other legend, when Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva, got immolated in fire because her father Daksha disrespected herself and Shiva. By hearing this, Lord Shiva renounced the worldly duties and went into deep meditation. Due to the absence of Shiva, the order of the world got crumbled. Meanwhile, Sati got incarnated as Goddess Parvati. She along with other gods went to Lord Kamadev, the god of love and passion, to bring him back to the normal state. Kaamadev is the son of Krishna and Rukmini and his wife is Rati. Kaamadev agreed to help even though he knew the consequences of doing so. As planned, Kaama shot the arrow towards Shiva, who was in meditation. This made Shiva very disturbed and he opened his third eye (Phaala Netra) and reduced Kaama into ashes. But he was successful in bringing Shiva out of meditative trance. Later Rati and other Gods explained the situation and pleaded Shiva to restore Kaama into life. Shiva accepted it and restored him from the ashes in the form of Pradyumna. And finally Shiva married Parvati and restored the order of the world. Because of the sacrifice of Kaamadev, people started worshiping Kaamadev and celebrated on this day.