Holi – An Eruption of Colours, Joy, and Bonhomie
Holi is one of the most looked forward to festivals in India. It is the festival that signals the end of winter and the coming of spring. It is not only a festival of colors, it is a time when enmity and misgivings are forgotten. It is a time when love, mischief, and gay abandon are in the air. Holi is the beginning of the spring harvest season, a time of joy for farmers. Holi is known by various names in different parts of India, but the underlying message is the same.
As we know, Holi is preceded by Holika Dahan in the previous evening. This is when the demoness Holika is symbolically burnt on a pyre, signifying the victory of good over evil.
About Holi Festival
Traditions of Sanatan Dharma are as timeless as Dharma itself. It would be futile to date them. We do know that the festival of Holi was celebrated by Lord Krishna Himself in the Dwapar Yuga. There are other stories connected with Holi which confirm it is indeed a timeless tradition. References to Holi can be found in various Puranas such as Narada Purana and Bhavishya Purana. Depictions of Holi scenes can be seen in numerous panels and carvings on the walls of ancient temples.
Why is Holi Celebrated
The story of Bhakta Prahlad and Holika is well known. Hiranyakashipu, the demon king, and Bhakta Prahlad’s father could not tolerate Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Vishnu and wanted to kill him. He asked his sister Holika to burn Prahlad in a bonfire. Accordingly, Holika protected by a divine garment caught Prahlad and sat in a bonfire. But Prahlad was protected by Lord Vishnu and the opposite happened. Holika perished and Prahlad was saved. Celebrations with color erupted all around and the festival of Holi came into being. The name Holi comes from Holika.
Lord Shiva and Kamdev – Rati
Lord Shiva is well known for His long years in Meditation which could extend for centuries or more. Once in Treta Yuga there came a time when all the Devas needed Mahadev’s help but were afraid to disturb Him as He was in prolonged Samadhi. Kamdev, the Deva of love volunteered to do what was needed even though he knew the consequences. Kamdev shot an arrow made of flowers and disturbed Mahadev’s deep samadhi. Mahadev opened His third eye and Kamdev was instantly turned into a pile of ashes. After that Kamdev’s wife – Rati, Mata, and all the Devas begged Mahadev for restoration of Kamdev’s life. Kind-hearted Mahadev agreed and said Kamdev would continue to live without a body for some time and would be reborn as Lord Krishna’s son in the coming Dwapar Yuga. Kamdev was then also known as ‘Anang’ (Bodiless) and later reborn as Pradyumna in Dwapar. Lord Shiva agreed to the Devas’ request and married Mata Parvati. Kartikeya Swami was born and grew up killing the demon Tarkasura. This was the reason Lord Shiva had been disturbed.
Lord Krishna and Radha Rani – Holi in Vrindavan Mathura
There are a number of stories from our Puranas and other religious texts that are connected with the festival of Holi. In Dwapar Yuga Braj Holi was celebrated by Lord Krishna, His companions, and Gopis as well as the general public. It took many different forms and celebrations lasted as long as forty days. How it came to be a tradition is an interesting story. Lord Krishna as a child, was not happy with the dark color of His skin. It is said Yashoda Maiyya asked Him to get His face colored by Radha Rani. Thus started the tradition of colors in Braj Bhoomi which attained iconic proportions over the years. The tradition continues to this day. Braj Holi is in a class of its own and hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive in Vrindavan to take part or just watch. Krishna Janmasthan Temple in Mathura, Banke Bihari Temple in Vrindavan, and the hundreds of temples in Brij Bhoomi come alive in a riot of colors. Thandai, a preferred drink made of milk and herbs flows like water. The joy of the exuberant crowds has to be seen to be believed. Nandgaon (Lord Krishna’s Village) and Barsana (Radha Rani’s Village) are the special centers of attraction during Holi, famous for Lathmar Holi.
A Riot of Colours
In the morning after Holika Dahan people come out of their homes armed with colors, water guns, and small balloons filled with colored water. They are generally in groups and look for another similar group to engage with. Scenes of revelry and gay abandon follow. Within a short time, no one is recognisable and all look as if out of a horror movie. Lord help the one who tries to hide from these revelers. All this is accompanied by rounds of Thandai which can be intoxicating, depending on how it is prepared. Dancing, singing, and playing drums is a part of the fun.
By lunchtime, all are exhausted and spent. A good bath and a good scrubbing are what is needed now. The colors used are fast and sometimes it takes two or three days to fully remove them. The revelers rest a while after lunch and In the late afternoon many go out again. This time it’s a much gentler mood. People visit relatives and friends and greet and apply dry colors on each other. Sweet boxes are exchanged. Thus comes an end to a fun-filled exciting day, knowing it will come again next year, and the whole exercise will be repeated.