The festival of colours – Holi

Colours of Holi

Holi – The colour festival

Holi, the festival of colors, is one of the important festivals of India, including Navaratri, Diwali and Eid.

People celebrating Holi
People celebrating Holi
Holi is a very popular festival of colours of Hindus. It is celebrated on the last full moon day of lunar month Phalguna. This festival marks the onset of hindi new year.
This is a festival of colour, joy and love. Entire country wears a festive look during holi celebrations. Holi also coincides with end of harvesting season and this is reason for cheer for farmers. It also marks the arrival of spring.
Colours of Holi
Colours of Holi
 
On the roadside one can find stalls selling gulal, abir and pichkaris. Food preparations also begin many days in advance with assemblage of gujia, papad, kanji and various other snacks like malpua, mathri, dahi bondas,and puran poli which are served to the guests.
Though the festival begins many days in advance with Holi milan and musical soirees where songs related to holi is sung some classical one like aaj biraj mein holi re rasiye” is popular from generations. 
Holika dahan
Holika dahan
 
A day before holi, ‘Holika dahan’ or Chhoti holi is celebrated. In this bone fire is lit on the street corner. This is celebrated in the memory of miraculous escape of Prahlad when Holika carried him in to the fire. In South India, this day celebrated as Kama Dahnam.
The next day is celebrated as Dhulendi or Dhulheti or Parva. On this day people get crazy and wacky, they throw colour and coloured water on each other. After fun filled exciting day evening is spend in sobriety where people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.

Legends associated with this festival

One of the most popular legend is of Prahlad. There was a cruel demon Hiranyakashyap. He wanted to conquer the world and wanted to be worshiped by every one. His son Prahlad was devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap did not like this but Prahlad was unmoved in his devotion. So Hiranyakashyap decided to kill Prahlad. He tried to get snake to crush Prahlad but, Prahlad prayed to lord Vishnu and was saved. Then Hiranyakashyap tried to throw him from a cliff but again Prahlad escaped. Finally Hiranyakashyap called his sister Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika was granted a boon that fire would not destroy her. She decided to take Prahlad in lap and sit on a burning pyre.

As the flame engulfed them Prahlad called aloud for Lord Vishnu’s help. To every body’s surprise, the fire slowly consumed Holika and she was burned to death. Prahlad emerged safe and sound.
Holika and Prahalad
Holika and Prahalad
Hiranyakashyap was later killed by Narsingh avatar of lord Vishnu, one of the dashavatara.

The myth of Kamadeva

 
There is another story from South India. There people worship Kamadeva as God of love and passion. According to this legend Kamdev shot his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiv to revoke his interest in worldly affair in the interest of earth. Lord Shiv was enraged as he was in deep meditation and opened his third eye which reduces Kamadeva into ashes . Though later on the request of Rati Kamdev’s wife Shiv was pleased to restore him back.

The legend of Radha-Shri Krishna

Holi is also celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Shri Krishna and Radha. Krishna, in his childhood, would complain to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark (There is a popular song from hindi movies on this – Yashomati maiyaa se bole nandlala, sung by Lata Mangeshkar). Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change. One of the Shri Krishna’s prank was to throw colored powder all over the gopis. So at Holi, images of Krishna and his consort Radha are often carried through the streets. Holi is celebrated with eclat in the villages around Mathura, the birth-place of Krishna.

This festival marks the hindu new year.

The festival of Saraswati Puja

Sarawati Puja festival

The festival of Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami is the festival of scholars. On this day, goddess Saraswati is worshipped. She is considered to be the goddess of knowledge, art and music.

Sarawati Puja festival
Sarawati Puja festival

She holds the veena ( a musical instrument) and also referred as Veena Vadini. This festival in india follows the another important festival – Makar Sankranti.

 

Goddess Saraswati with Veena
Veena Vadini

Vasant Panchami marks the onset of spring season. It is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the Indian month of Magh. In southern part of India, this festival falls on navaratri. This festival is followed by another major festival – Holi.

It is believed that on this day goddess Saraswati was born on this day. Saraswati is the hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. She is the companion of Brahma, also revered as his Shakti (power). It was with her knowledge, that Brahma created the universe.This festival is celebrated in temples, homes schools, colleges and educational institutions. Goddess Sarawati’s favourite colour is white. She is seen as the serene Goddess wearing a crescent moon on her brow riding a swan or seated on a lotus flower.

Vasant Panchami is the most auspicious day to begin study. Educational institutions conduct special prayer for Saraswati on this day. It is a great day to inaugurate educational institutes and new schools. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya who founded the Banaras hindu university on the auspicious occasion of Vasant Panchami.

There is also a custom of ancestor worship, known as ‘Pitri-Tarpan’ in many parts of India during Vasant Panchami.

Regional influences on Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja in Eastern India

In the eastern part of India—Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihār and Assam,—Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month (January–February). It coincides with Vasant Panchami or Shree Panchami, i.e., the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. People place books near the goddess’ statue or picture and worship the goddess. Book reading is not allowed on this day.

Saraswati Puja in South India

In the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja is conducted during the Navaratri. Navaratri literally means “nine nights”, but the actual celebrations continue during the 10th day, which is considered as Vijaya Dashami or the Victorious Tenth Day. Navaratri starts with the new-moon day of the bright fortnight of the Sharad Ritu (Sharad Season of the six seasons of India) during September–October. The festival celebrates the power of the feminine aspect of divinity or shakti. The last two or three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati in South India.

 

Recommended Reading:

Seven unknown facts about Karna

Unknown fact about Draupadi – Why she had five husbands

When incarnation of Lord Vishnu could not defeat his bhakta

The festival of Mahashivaratri

Lord Shiiva and Devi Parvati

Mahashivaratri festival

Lord Shiva, the god of destruction from the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh is worshipped on this festival. This day falls in the month of falgun, fourteenth day of krishna paksha, as per the hindi calendar.

Lord Shiiva and Devi Parvati
Lord Shiiva and Devi Parvati

How puja is performed?

On this day,devotees visit the Shiva temples in their area. They bath in the morning and bring holy water such as gangajaal to bath the Shivalinga. Womens observe this festival for well being of their husband and children. Leaves of bel, Dhatura, Milk are deemed to be favourites of Lord Shiva and devotees bring them to offer to him. Unmarried girls pray and keep fast on this day for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband. The temples are reverberated with words “Har Har Mahadev”. Devotees then take rounds of Shiva linga and then offer gangajal or milk. There  is also the custom of staying awake all night on Shivaratri while chanting the name of Lord Shiva which relates to Neelkanth.

Worship of Lord Shiva
Worship of Lord Shiva

 Legends of Mahashivaratri

A number of legends are associated with this festival. The most important is the legend of Neelkanth on consumption of poison.

Neelkanth – churning of ocean

During the churning of ocean, a pot of poison (halahal) came out of the ocean. This had the potential to destruct the whole universe. Lord Vishnu advised gods to request Lord Shiva to consume the poison.
To save the mankind, Lord Shiva drank the poison after requested by gods. Goddess Parvati pressed her neck to prevent the poison reaching to stomach. Thus, the poison remained in the neck and his neck became blue. Thus the name Neelkanth. In an effort to keep Lord Shiva awake at the night,gods danced and played music. As the day broke out, Lord Shiva, pleased with their devotion blessed them all. Mahashivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.

Neelkanth mahadev
Neelkanth mahadev

According to another legend, Mahashivaratri  is the celebraton of wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati.

Fair and melas

A number of melas are organized and celebrated in the indian subcontinent. In Nepal, Pashupati Nath temple celebrates Lord Shiva’s birthday with grandeur. At midnight, all the four doors of the main temple of pashupatinath are opened for whole night. Rudra mantra is enchanted  and offerings are given to Lord Shiva. Nepal Army pay homage to Lord pashupatinath by volleys of gun fires at Tundikhel parade ground in Kathmandu.

In Mandi (‘Varanasi of the Hills‘), Himachal pradesh, the Shivaratri fair is celebrated for seven days. About 200 deities are assembled in this holy town. This festival has gained the importance of international festival.

Mandi during Shivaratri fair
Mandi during Shivaratri fair

Pachmarhi hosts Shivaratri mela every year. The religious festival celebrates the wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati. This is done at Mahadev Temple, nearby Pachmarhi.

 

Wedding of Shiva and Parvati
Wedding of Shiva and Parvati

In 2013 – This festival will be celebrated on 10th March.