Updated: May 3
Coming out of the Winter blues and being welcomed by the colorful spring is what Holi is all about. Celebrated all over India since ancient times, Holi’s precise form and purpose display great variety. Originally, Holi was an agricultural festival celebrating the arrival of spring.
Holi is celebrated on the full moon of the month of Fagan in Gujarati calender. The day of Holi in the evening public bonfire is held at a temple or around a culdesac. Many gather wood and things to burn in this fire for days. People believe that this fire is powerful enough to ward off evil and break curses. In Gujarat we pray and throw in a coconut in the fire and then eat that roasted coconut as an offering from the Gods-known as Prasad! This celebration and the name Holi is a direct result of the story of Holika and Prahlad.
Story of Prahalad:
The legend commemorated by the festival of Holi involves an evil king named Hiranyakashipu. He forbade his son Prahlad from worshipping Vishnu, but Radhu continued to do offer prayers to the god. Getting angry with his son, Hiranyakashipu challenged Prahlad to sit on a pyre with his wicked aunt Holika who was believed to be immune to fire. (In an alternate version, Holika put herself and Prahlad on the fire on orders from her brother.
Prahlad accepted the challenge and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar to show for it. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi. According to some accounts, Holika begged Prahlad for forgiveness before her demise, and he decreed that she would be remembered every year at Holi.
The day after Holi is celebrated with Colors. The legend associated with that is of the enduring love between Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and Radha, and Krishna in general. According to legend, the young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change.
Mother nature puts on a gorgeous show of colors during spring and we celebrate with those colors. In the old days the color powders were made from Neem, Kumkum, Haldi(Turmeric), Bilva and other medicinal herbs used in Ayurveda. Now a days there is synthetic color powder that gets used mainly with waters.
Holi bridges social gaps and brings people together: employees and employers, men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Holi is also characterized by the loosening of social norms governing polite behavior and the resulting general atmosphere of licentious merrymaking and ribald language and behavior. Common saying is, “ bura na mano holi hai..(Don’t be offended its holi).
Food:Different parts of India people eat different types of foods, and the most common food/drink associated with Holi/Dhuleti is Bhaang and Thandai. These drinks have an intoxicating affects. Maharashtrains prefer Puran Poli. North Indians prepare Shakarpara and gujjias – a sweet samosa filled with mava, coconut, dry fruits which is fried and dipped in a sugar syrup. Gujaratis make sweet khichidi and sweets like kheer, basundi and halva.
My Holi Memory:
I remember riding my bicycle to school with my friend Aditi and taking alternate routes to avoid the colors but got colored every single time. We filled water balloons and threw them on each other. We used water guns known as “Pichkari” and everyone joined in the fun, no one was offended. We went from house to house in our neighborhood and put colors on each other. The carefree times of being understood and understanding others!