Holi- the festival of colours is undoubtedly the most fun-filled and boisterous of Hindu festival. During this festival of colours or ‘Holi’ as it is known in India, nature and people alike join in the celebrations throwing away the gloom of winter and rejoice in colours and liveliness of spring. It’s an occasion that brings in unadulterated joy and mirth, fun and play, music and dance and of course, lot of vibrant colours.
The colouring of friends and strangers with powder and water is particularly enjoyed by children. Adults also participate enthusiastically in the color fight which begins in the morning of the festival. The festival is divided into two days, Chhoti Holi which falls a day Rangpanchami, day when you pay with colors. Chhoti Holi, a bonfire is lit in the evening which signifies the triumph of good over evil and it is also called as ‘Holika Dahan’ The colour Holi originated as an agricultural festival, ushering in the blooming season. In some parts of India, especially in Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
It is interesting to learn how several incidents which took place at different places and times led to the origin on Holi. Each legend has its own significance and contribution to the festival.
‘Holi’ like all other Indian festival has an equal share of mythological significance. According to mythology, the festival is known as ‘Holi’ owing to the legend of ‘Holika’. The legends say, Hiranyakashyap was the king of demons and received the boon of immorality from Lord Brahma. As his power and arrogance grew, he began objecting to people’s belief in the divine power and demanded that should worship him instead but to his disappointment, his son, Prahlad become an ardent devotee of Lord Narayana. Hiranyakashyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on her. However she was not aware that the boon works only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid the price for her sinister desires. From that day, burning of ‘Holika’ is an important part of Holi celebrations which commemorated the end of evil.
Lord Shiva- Kamadev Story
Another myth of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kamadev. Kama’s body was reduced to ashes by the force if an angry Shiva’s third eye, when her shot a flower-draped arrow at him. On the tearful requests of Kama’s wife Rati, the lord restored him but only as a mental image representing true love rather than physical lust. This legend also gave birth to the custom of offering sandalwood paste to Kamadev on Holi, to assuage the stinging burns.
The Story of Dhundhi
Also, popular is the legends of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the prank of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief to the legends, children till date plays prank and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan. This is why boy’s rowdy behaviour is considered acceptable in many parts of the country on this occasion.
Radha-Lord Krishna legends
In Vrindavan and Mathura, Holi is celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Radha and Krishna. It is believed that when Lord Krishna was young he often whined about his dark complexion and wondered why Radha was so fair. One day his mother, Yashodha playfully suggested him to smear colour on Radha’s face and change her complexion to any colour her wanted. So young and naughty Krishna applied colours on Radha’s face and thus, introduced the colourful festival of Holi. ‘Holi’ in Braj is famous all over India for its intimate connection with the divine deities and their love plays. Mythology also states that Holi is the preparation of death of Ogres Pootana who tried to infant Krishna by feeding him poisonous milk.
Today in Mathura and Vrindavan, a different type of Holi is played known as ‘Lathdar Holi’. In this women and men dress in traditional costumes and play Holi with the stick and a shield.