CulturallyOurs Indian Festival Of Holi

Indian Festival Of Holi Celebrating Spring

CulturallyOurs Indian Festival Of Holi

Ask anyone about traveling to India in Spring and the first thing that they ask is about Holi – the Indian festival of colors. While it is true that India and Indian culture has countless festivals and ceremonies, none is celebrated with so much gusto than Holi. In fact Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India and it is celebrated in almost every part of the country.

Holi is a Hindu spring festival, celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world. It is often know as “festival of colors” or the “festival of love” as on this day people get to together to sing, dance, play with colors, water and just generally have a good time. Like many other festivals in India, Holi also signifies a victory of good over evil.CulturallyOurs Indian Festival Of Holi with colors

The History of Holi

As per ancient mythology, there is a legend of an Indian king with who Holi is associated.

Hiranyakashipu was a king in ancient India who was like a demon. He wanted to take revenge for the death of his younger brother who was killed by Lord Vishnu (one of the three most important gods in Hinduism). So to gain power, the king prayed for years. He was finally granted a boon. But with this Hiranyakashipu started considering himself  God and asked his people to worship him like God. The cruel king has a young son named Prahalad, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahalad had never obeyed his father’s order and kept on worshiping Lord Vishnu.

The King was so hard hearted and decided to kill his own son, because he refused to worship him. He asked his sister ‘Holika’, who was immune to fire, to sit on a pyre of fire with Prahalad in her lap. Their plan was to burn Prahalad. But their plan did not go through as Prahalad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu throughout was safe, but Holika got burnt to ashes.

The defeat of Holika signifies the burning of all that is bad. After this, Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu. But it is actually the death of Holika that is associated with Holi – the victory of good over evil.CulturallyOurs Indian Festival Of Holi

Holi and its association with colors

The reason why holi is associated with colors is also part of ancient Indian tradition. This dates back to the period of Lord Krishna (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) . It is believed that Lord Krishna used to celebrate holi with colors. He used to play holi with his friends in his home town of Vrindavan and Gokul. They used to play pranks all across the village and thus made this a community event. That is why till date Holi celebrations at Vrindavan are considered the best in the country. In olden days, colors used to be made with flowers and primarily using shades of pink called ‘gulal’. Even today in some temples in Vrindavan, holi is celebrated with flower petals instead of chemically processed colors.CulturallyOurs Indian Festival Of Holi in SpringHoli is a spring festival to say goodbye to winters. In some parts the celebrations are also associated with spring harvest. Farmers after seeing their stores being refilled with new crops celebrate Holi as a part of their happiness. The vibrancy of colors is something that brings in a lot of positivity in our lives and Holi being the festival of colours is actually a day worth rejoicing.

Holi is one of the oldest Hindu festivals and it had probably started several centuries before the birth of Christ.

Holi celebrations

The festival begins with Holika Dahan, the ritual burning of pyres that take place the night before. This tradition is mostly followed in regions including North India, Nepal and South India and signifies the death of Holika – the triumph of good over evil. Wood and the other materials burnt in the bonfires are collected days in advance, while an effigy of Holika is also typically placed on top of the pyre.

The next day which is the main portion of the festival, Rangwali Holi, is observed. Those taking part in the festivities cover each other in colors and also pour water in buckets or even via water filled balloons.

{Photos by Meeta Rao and Tom Watkins}

Related Reading

Leave your comments below

  1. Sarah says:

    Every year I find myself saying, next year I will attend a Holi festival in India and then life gets in the way. Where would you recommend for a first timer to experience Holi?

  2. Karthika Gupta says:

    Sarah, where are you based? If going to India is not possible, there are many places around the world that celebrate holi as well. In fact most places with a large Indian migrant population will have some kind of holi celebration. If you are able to visit India, places like Jaipur, Mumbai or even Mathura. Mathura is known as one of the most beautiful places to experience holi because they play with flowers as well as color and water.