Holi – The festival of colours . The festival of love, and the festival that celebrates spring!
Everytime I meet a foreigner and they get to know that I’m an Indian, this is one of the most commonly asked questions by them – What is this festival of colours that you celebrate in your country? And everytime, I have a smile on my face, as I explain.
Holi isn’t just a festival in which we paint each other’s faces. The mere act of doing that is symbolic of love and togetherness. On this day, we come together , regardless of race, caste, sex, colour and religion. We come together and paint each other in colours of happiness and love. And not just that, we celebrate a history of love and the victory of good over evil. Holi does have a connection to the Hindu mythology, and even though I’m not a Hindu, it intrigiues me to know and share why!
Holi gets us close to our religion and our mythology as it is essentially the celebration of various legends associated with the festival.
Foremost is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakshyap. The legend says there once lived a devil and powerful king, Hiranyakshyap who considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahlad began to worship, Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap, as she had a boon to enter fire unscathed. Legend has it that Prahlad was saved for his extreme devotion for the lord while Holika paid a price for her sinister desire. The tradition of burning Holika or the ‘Holika dahan’ comes mainly from this legend.
Holi also celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which describes the extreme delight, Krishna took in applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank of Krishna later, became a trend and a part of the Holi festivities.
Mythology also states that Holi is the celebration of death of Ogress Pootana who tried to kill infant, Krishna by feeding poisonous milk to it.
Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva.According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.
Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief in the legend, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan.
Celebration of the various legends associated with Holi reassure the people of the power of the truth as the moral of all these legends is the ultimate victory of good over evil. The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad also points to the fact that extreme devotion to god pays as god always takes his true devotee in his shelter.
All these legends help the people to follow a good conduct in their lives and believe in the virtue of being truthful. This is extremely important in the modern day society when so many people resort to evil practices for small gains and torture one who is honest. Holi helps the people to believe in the virtue of being truthful and honest and also to fight away the evil.
Besides, holi is celebrated at a time of the year when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest. This gives a people a good reason to rejoice, make merry and submerge themselves in the spirit of Holi.
Holi is celebrated widely in India, but there is no comparison to the celebrations in Mathura and Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna was born and brought up. There, the celebrations go on for days! There are also other traditions and rituals apart from throwing coloured powders and water on each other. But that, ofcourse is the highlight!
We come together to play with colours, dance, drink and eat traditional foods. It is one of my dearest Indian festivals, and this time since I was in France, I thought I wouldn’t be able to celebrate it. But thanks to a community of Indian students in Paris, I could. And God knows, this was the best Holi celebration of my life!
Here, there weren’t just Indians, but people from all over the world, looking alike with their faces coloured in green, yellow, red, pink, orange, purple and what not! It was held at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, starting from India House, moving on the Dutch House and ending with the French house. With a wide variety of colours provided, along with drinks and amazing Hindi and Punjabi music, it just felt like home! Non stop dancing for more than 5 hours, out in the Parisian cold . And oh, not to forget, the samosas at the end of the celebrations! It really was an experience and a day I would never forget!
Thanks to everyone who organised it. Happy Holi and Joyous Spring to everyone!
Excerpts from – http://www.holifestival.org/holi-festival.html