Why is Holi celebrated? Festival of Colors and Its Myths

Why is Holi Celebrated

Holi, “The Festival of Love and Colors”, different from other festivals, at least different in the sense that there are no boring rituals to be followed. The only ritual that exist is to gather, share love and happiness and to throw Colors, water, balloons at each other. The celebration however, might differ from region to region.

Holi is one of the biggest festivals among Hindu community, while going community wise. But, it shows no restriction for other communities to be a part of. Celebrated mostly on countries like Nepal and India, Holi has its own religious and cultural significance.

Although, it has now become popular among Non-Hindus and spread over wide range of communities over the world. The Origin of the Holi and the links relating to its continuation has a separate and interesting story to tell.

Holi: Timing and climatic significance

Love and Colors, what comes to our mind first? Four major seasons; summer, winter, autumn and spring. Which one is our favorite? Answer is easy, spring. Holi, climatically is the mark for beginning of the spring season and end of a winter season. It also signifies the mark of the harvest.

According to the Bikram Sambhat Calendar (Nepali Calendar), Holi begins on the evening of the full moon day of the month Falgun, known as Purnima. Hence the name Fagu Purnima among its many names. And according to Gregorian calendar it lies between the months of February and March.

Being a Hindu festival, its ties with the ancient gods and goddess is strong and has its own myth.

Some Myths of Holi

Holika Legend: Vishnu Legend

According to the Hindu legend, Holi is celebrated a day and a night. It starts on the evening, known as Holika Dahan Evening and the following day where people play with the Colors.

According to the Bhagavata Purana (Hinduism’s one puranas among the great 18 purana), it all starts with the king named Hiranyakaship who was the king of all the Asuras (a class of divine beings). He was once given a boon, a type of blessing from the god that gave him powers.

5 special powers of Hiranyakaship

  1. He couldn’t be killed by a human nor an animal
  2. He could neither be killed indoors nor outdoors
  3. He could neither be killed at day or at night
  4. He couldn’t be killed either with Astra (Projectile weapons like bow) and sastra (handheld weapons like knife)
  5. He could be killed neither on land nor in water.

Due to those powers given to him, he was rather arrogant and cunning. He was beginning to think of himself as a god and force others to worship him.

Prahlada, the son of the very king, however showed difference in the opinion. He was strongly devoted to Vishnu.

Seeing his son become devoted to Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu used to punish his son in numerous manners. But all those punishments failed as king was unable to change Prahlada opinion and devotion.

Myths of Holi - Holika Dahan
Holika Dahan (Image Source: Sonali Pimputkar)

However, one day his aunt Holika tricked him to seat on fine along with her. But she was wearing a cloak that would protect her from the fire. Which leaves Prahlada without protection on the burning fire. Though he was not provided with the cloak, as the fire roared Holika was burnt but Prahlada survived the whole fire. She was burnt the very evening, hence the name Holika Dahan.

Narsimha Killing Hirankashyao
Narsimha Killing Hiranyakashyap (Image Source: nimaipandit)

The next day the king was killed by the god Vishnu, in the avatar known as Narasimha who was half human and half lion. Narasimha could overcome all of his powers, as he killed the king on the doorstep which was neither outside nor inside, with his claws which was neither a projectile weapon nor a hand held weapon, placing on his lap (neither water nor land) at dusk ( neither day nor night). This killing signifies the victory of good over the evil and hence the celebration involving Colors, happiness and love.

Lord Krishna and Radha Legend:

In the ancient Braj region of India, where Krishna grew up there was a she-demon called Putana while Krishna was a baby. As Putana poisoned Krishna with her breast milk, Krishna was much darker compared to others.

Lord Krishna and Putana Myth
Lord Krishna and Putana Myth

Due to that, Krishna was in fear that girls including Radha would rather do not like him because of his skin color. In solution to that, his mother told him to ask Radha to color Krishna’s face in any color she likes. She does so and they become a couple.

From that event until now, Holi is believed to be celebrated as the remembrance of the love of Krishna and Radha. And it is tried to recreate those moment of love with our friends and family.

Dhundi and Boys legend:

There was once a kingdom called Prithu. In that kingdom there was a horrible ogress (man eating giant) named Dhundi. She used to trouble many children and eat them alive.

Myth of Dhundi
Dhundi (Photo Credit: http://www.top5life.com/holi-festival-mythological-significance/)

She was booned by lord Shiva that she would not be killed by gods or men, she can’t be killed with any weapon and was unaffected with any of the weather. Due to that reason she was close to invincible.

But, she was not immune to the pranks and abused of the young boys as she was also cursed by lord Shiva.

During that time the king of the kingdom Prithu was Raghu, he arranged some boys and asked them to annoy that ogress. That day was the Fagu Purnima. The boys collected the woods and put on a fire, by dancing and speaking like crazy they drove the ogress mad. Forcing her to move away from them, those boys little intoxicated on bhang (An edible preparation of cannabis) beating drums and making noise make her leave that kingdom and never come back. Since then, the same tradition seems repeated till now and is celebrated as Holi.

Holi and It’s Modern Significance:

Many of us might be unware of the story behind its ancient myths from the Puranas. However, what matters is the participation of friends and family for the celebration of beautiful and colorful festival of Holi.

Mainly in Nepal, children and adults involve in spreading Colors all over each other. Mostly among children spray gun and water balloons are most famous.

While adults enjoy themselves with the wide variety of Colors among them. Each color denotes separate meaning and importance.

Colors of Holi
Colors of Holi (Image Source: Amby2506)

Famous among all is Red, which signifies power, victory, blood and happiness.

Blue on the other hand, signifies peace and high living among all people.

During the beginning of the spring season we can see a lot of greeneries which results the green color.

Yellow represents the warmth of the sun and brilliance.

Black shows the dark side whereas White shows the good side. Everything the white signifies; Black denotes the exact opposite.

Violet is for royal, orange stands for creativity and grey signifies the quietness.

One can hardly ignore the colors and its importance before applying them to our friends and relatives.

Music, food and drinks in Holi:

Music plays an important part in the festival like Holi. Dancing and singing while applying Colors to our friends and family.

On the modern context, several dance parties and concerts are arranged on the occasion of Holi. While to some part, traditional and cultural songs prevails.

There are songs which are created just for Holi. Not only in Nepal but in India too. A good music with a good dance is also the way of spreading love and happiness enhanced by the colorful faces of the people.

Foods in Holi
Foods in Holi (Image Source: India TV)

People also prepare special dish for the occasion typically over most parts of India and Terai part of Nepal. Halwa is most famous on this occasion while it differs from the community to community. Mainly the dishes prepared are Laddos (Sweet), Chana masalas, Saffron rice, etc.

An edible preparation of cannabis known as bhang along with milk is also taken in most of the regions as the part of the festival. Having its own drawbacks as a drug, it is widely popular among the adults in the occasions such as Holi.

As the spring bless us with the new flowers and leaves making all the nature colorful, so does Holi, as it brings strange mixture of Colors amazing among itself to make not only our lives full of joy, love and happiness but our surroundings which includes our family and friends tied with the beautiful shades of Colors.

Are you Celebrating Holi this year?

Comment below, How’re you celebrating this Holi?

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