Holi, the Festival of Colors, is one of the major festivals of India. Festival of Holi is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety on the Full Moon Day (Purnima) in the month of Phalgun which, as per the Gregorian calendar, is the month of March.
Holi is a very popular ancient Hindu festival and originates from the Indian subcontinent. Holi is celebrated predominantly in India but has also spread to other areas of the Asian Continent and some parts of the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent.
Holi festival is celebrated with various names throughout India. People of different states follow different traditions.
But, the spirit of Holi, which remains the same throughout our country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated or played is what makes Holi so unique and special.
When is Holi in the Year 2021?
In the year 2021, Holi will begin on the evening of 28th March 2021, Sunday & end on the Evening of 29th March 2021, Monday.
Preparations of Holi
Our entire country wears a festive look when it comes to Holi celebrations. Market places throughout India get abuzz with activity as shoppers start making preparations for this festival of colours.
We can see heaps of various hues of Gulal and Abeer on the roadside, days before the festival. Pichkaris (Water Guns) in innovative and modern designs come up every year to lure children who wish to drench everybody in the town.
Women also start making early preparations for the Holi Festival as they cook many different recipes and snacks. Some of the snacks prepared for Holi are Mathri, Gujiya, and Papri.
These are prepared for the entire family and also for relatives. At some places especially in North India, women also make Papads and Potato Chips at this time.
Holi Season – Season of Bloom
Everyone gets delighted and happy at the arrival of Holi as the season during this festival itself is so gay. Holi is also called the Spring Festival, in some parts of our country, as it marks the arrival of the Spring Season of Hope and Joy.
This marks the end of the winter and the start of bright summer days. Nature too seems to rejoice at the arrival of Holi and the fields get filled with crops promising a good harvest to the farmers. Flowers bloom colouring the surroundings and filling sweet fragrance in the air.
Legends – About the Festival of Colors
Holi, a Hindu Festival of Colors, has various legends associated with it. The most famous is the legend of demon King Hiranyakashyap. He demanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him only. He had a son, Prahlad. Prahlad became a devotee of the Lord Vishnu.
When he knew about this, he tried a lot to make his son worship him & the Lord Vishnu. When everything failed, Hiranyakashyap ordered his son to be killed. Hiranyakashyap had a sister, Holika. Holika had a boon that made her immune to fire.
As Hiranyakashyap was aware of this boon, he asked his sister, Holika, to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. It is believed that Prahlad was saved by the Lord Vishnu himself for his extreme devotion. This symbolizes the victory of Good over Evil.
This is the reason, people, to date, light a bonfire on the eve of the Holi festival. It is called Holika Dahan. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil and at the same time, the triumph of devotion to god.
There is another story attached to it as well. It goes like this – there was once an ogress Dhundhi in the kingdom of Prithu who used to trouble children. Dhundhi was chased away by children on the day of Holi. Because of this, children are allowed to play pranks at the time of ‘Holika Dahan‘.
In some parts of the country, it is also celebrated for the death of evil-minded Pootana. Pootana was an ogress who tried to kill Lord Krishna, as an infant, by feeding him poisonous milk. She was sent by Kansa, Krishna’s devil uncle.
However, Lord Krishna sucked her blood and brought her end. Some view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles and believe that Pootana represents the winter season and her death the cessation and end of winter.
In South India, people worship Kamadeva who is the god of love and passion, for his extreme sacrifice. According to another legend, Kamadeva once shot his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiva to revoke his interest in worldly affairs in the interest of our planet earth.
However, because of this Lord Shiva was enraged as he was in deep meditation. He opened his third eye and this reduced Kamadeva to ashes. Later on the request of Rati, Kamadeva’s wife, Shiva restored him back.
On the eve of Holi also called the Chhoti Holi or Small Holi, people gather generally at important crossroads or playgrounds and light huge bonfires. This ceremony is called the Holika Dahan.
To render gratefulness to Agni, the God of Fire, gram and stalks from the harvest are also offered with all humility. Ash that is left from this bonfire is considered to be sacred and people apply it on their foreheads. We believe that the ash protects us from evil forces.
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Playing of Colors
The next day, after the Holika Dahan, it is the time for the play of colours. Shops and offices throughout remain closed for the day and people get the time to get crazy and whacky. The bright colours of Gulal and Abeer fill the air. People take turns in pouring colour water over each other.
Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris or water guns and throwing water balloons on passers-by.
In some places, even today, women and senior citizens form groups called Tolis and move into colonies – applying colours and exchanging greetings.
Songs and dancing on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies and snacks are the other highlights of the day.
Expression of Love
Lovers too, long to apply colours on their beloved ones and express Love. There is a popular legend behind it also. It goes like this that the naughty and mischievous Lord Krishna started the trend of playing colours. He applied colour on her beloved Radha.
This trend soon gained popularity amongst the masses, and it continues to this day. No wonder, the Holi of Mathura, Vrindavan, and Barsana (all the places associated with the birth and childhood of Radha-Krishna) has no match.
Importance of Bhang
There is also a tradition of consuming Bhang on this day. It further enhances the spirit of the festival of Holi.
If you have witnessed this, you will 100% agree with me on this that it is fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a mockery of themselves in full public display. However, caution should be taken while consuming bhang delicacies.
After having a funfilled and exciting day, the evenings are spent in sobriety. People meet relatives and friends and exchange sweets and festive greetings.
It is believed that the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society. Even the enemies turn a friend on this auspicious day. People of all communities and religions participate in this joyous and colourful festival and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.