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Colours of Holi

The festival of colours – 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.
Narsingh avatar

The complete story of Narsingh avatar – Vishnu dashavatara

 Narsingh Avatar – fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu

The fourth of incarnation of Vishnu dashavatara is Narsingh avatar (half man-half lion). There was a demon king Hiranyakashyap who did severe penance of Brahma. Brahma became pleased with him and asked for a boon. Hiranyakashyap demanded immortality. Brahma replied that this is not possible as everyone who takes birth has to die, so ask something else.

Narsingh Avatar of Lord Vishnu - Dashavatar of Vishnu

Narsingh Avatar of Lord Vishnu – Dashavatar of Vishnu

 Hiranyakashyap then asks “no one created by you can kill me; I cannot die inside the house or outside, during the day or the night. I cannot be killed by any weapon by any human or beast, living or non living, any demi-god or demon. ” Brahma granted him this boon.



Thus Hiranyakashyap became very strong and he started asking people to treat him as god. But his own son, Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. He was initiated by Sage Narada and he belived in none other than Narayan.

Knowing this, Hiranyakashyap became very angry and tried to dissuade Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu.

He tried to kill him by burning him in fire, by giving him poison, by crushing him under elephants’ feet, by rolling down from high hills, by snake bites, by many kinds of weapons, but because of his devotion, Prahalad could not be killed by any means.

Hirankashyap’s sister Holika, offered a solution. She sat with Prahalad on a pyre, thinking that the flames would burn Prahalad and she would be saved by a  cloth which was immune from fire.  But by god’s grace, Holika was burnt and Prahalad was saved. This is still celebrated as Holika dahan which is followed by Holi, a prominent Indian festival.

One day, Hiranyakashyap challenged Prahalad that where is his god. Prahalad replied – he is everywhere. Out of rage, Hiranyakashyap asked, is he in the pillar and broke the pillar with his mace.

Duly, Narsingh avatar or fourth dashavatara of lord Vishnu appeared in form of half lion and half man. It was twilight (neither day nor night) and it was the entrance of the palace (neither inside nor outside). At that moment the Narsingh Avatar ( neither man nor beast), killed Hiranyakashyap with his nails. (Not with a weapon).

Note: Hiranyaksha, brother of Hiranyakashyap, was killed by Varaha avatar of Dashavatara and Prahlad grandson Bali was neutralized by another dashavatara (Vamana) of Lord Vishnu.

Hiranyakashyap and Hiranyaksha were actually devotees of Lord Vishnu who were on earth because of a curse.

Read about Vamana Avatar

Read about Kurma Avatar