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