Holi is a Hindu spring festival in India, also known as the "festival of colours" or the "festival of love". 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 broken relationships, and is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. It lasts for two days starting on the Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Bikram Sambat Hindu Calendar month of Falgun, which falls somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar. The first day is known as Holika Dahan (हॊलिका दहन) or Chhoti Holi and the second as Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire where people gather, do religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil should be destroyed as the bonfire starts. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi, carnival of colours, where participants play, chase and colour each other, with dry powder and coloured water, children carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw coloured powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. Some customary drinks such as those that include bhang are intoxicating. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up and visit friends and family.
There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is celebrated as a festival of colours in the honor of Hindu god Vishnu and his follower Prahlada. King Hiranyakashipu, according to a legend found in chapter 7 of Bhagavata Purana, was the king of demonic Asuras, and had earned a boon that gave him five special powers: : he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (projectile weapons) nor by any shastra (handheld weapons), and neither on land nor in water or air. Hiranyakashipu grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He staunchly remained devoted, only to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy’s bhakthi towards lord Vishnu. Finally, Holika, Prahlada's evil aunt, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada, who survived while Holika burned. Vishnu, the god who appears as an avatar to restore Dharma in Hindu beliefs, took the form of Narasimha - half human and half lion, at dusk (when it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a launched weapon).
The Holika bonfire and Holi signifies the celebration of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the fire that burned Holika.
In the Braj region of India, where the Hindu deity Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated as Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. The festivities officially usher in spring, with Holi celebrated as a festival of love. There is a symbolic myth behind worshipping Krishna as well. As a baby, Krishna developed his characteristic dark blue skin colour because the she-demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. In his youth, Krishna despaired, whether the fair-skinned Radha and other girls would like him because of his skin colour. His mother, tired of the desperation, asks him to approach Radha and colour her face in any colour he wanted. This he does, and Radha and Krishna became a couple. Ever since, the playful colouring of Radha's face has been marked as Holi.
There are many more stories and legends associated with this colourful festival Holi -depending upon the various , region and culture followed among people- of different states of our country. Whatever it is , it is the festive day -- to end and rid oneself of past errors, to end conflicts by meeting others -- a day to forget and forgive.
HOLI & the ORGANIC COLOURS
The health aspect has been a topic of debate for a long time, as the market is flooded with synthetic colours adulterated with oxidised metals and industrial dyes mixed with anything from engine oil to mercury sulphate to lead oxide or copper sulphate — all harmful chemicals that can cause skin allergies and eye infections. So this Holi, let us save the environment as well our health by using natural colours.
Mix two teaspoons of Turmeric powder (haldi) with double the quantity of gram flour (besan). Turmeric and gram flour have magical qualities that are very good for the skin.
Save a trip to the parlour by using green coloured henna powder (mehendi) this Holi. Either use it separately or mix it with an equal quantity of any suitable flour to get a lovely and natural green shade.
Soak a few stalks of Saffron (kesar) in 2 table spoons of water. Leave for a few hours and grind them to make a fine paste. Dilute that with water as per the desired colour strength.
Slice or grate one beetroot and soak it in 1 litre of water for a wonderful magenta. Boil or leave overnight for a deeper shade and dilute it before use.
Red Sandal Wood Powder, which has a beautiful red colour, is extremely beneficial for the skin and can be used in place of Red Gulal. You can also try dry red hibiscus flowers in shade, powder and add any flour to increase the bulk.
Use your own imagination for many more vibrant natural organic colours !
And finally, is any Indian festival complete without a colourful Rangoli at our door entrance?!