Holi is an Indian spring festival that is being celebrated not only in India but also in some European and North American counterparts because of the way it is celebrated, amidst fun frolic and colours. The popular notion of Holi celebration is playing with colours and applying all forms, dry and water, to each other. One can even find groups of children armed with water guns and water balloons, holding water fights on every street, in every society.
Holi has its origin in a great Indian legend which is traditionally celebrated across the country on the evening before the festive celebration with colours. The word ‘Holi’ was taken from the name of the demon king’s (Hiranyakashipu) evil sister, Holika. According to the legend, the king was the head of a city in Punjab, Multan; and was blessed with the power of being indestructible. This power blinded his compassion and he started thinking that he was God, ultimately demanding everyone to worship only him. His son, Prahlada, who was a devout follower of Lord Vishnu, opposed his father’s declaration and faced cruel punishments for his rebellious behaviour. But this didn’t deter his belief and resolve of doing what was right. Next, Prahlad’s evil aunt, Holika tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her when she was wearing a cloak that could save her from the fire. But as the fire grew, the cloak flew from Holika’s hold and covered Prahlada resulting in the demise of Holika. Hiranyakashipu witnessed the whole episode and expressed his frustration by striking his weapon against a pillar which created a fierce sound. Post this, Lord Vishnu appeared and killed him. The next morning, people applied the ash that had cooled down to their foreheads to mark the victory of good over evil. As time passed, ash evolved into colours and coloured powder became popular during Holi festivities.
The festival is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month, Phalgun, according to the Hindu calendar. This usually comes in March. In order to commemorate and celebrate the legend, bonfires are lit on the evening before Holi in a ceremony known as Holika Dahan. At times, an effigy of Holika who tricked Prahlada is hung on the top of the bonfire. The pyre is lit after sunset when people gather around it to sing, dance and celebrate the victory of good over evil.
The morning after the Holika Dahan is when people get out of their houses to wish their neighbours, relatives, friends, anyone and everyone with colour powders and water colours. Because people target each other and paint the selected targets top to bottom, people are usually looking like a canvas of colours by afternoon. Another popular tradition is the sweet that is exchanged on the festival- Gujjiya. Gujjiya is a sweet dumpling made of refined flour and stuffed with Khoya and roasted nuts and dry fruits. It is widely distributed during Holi, especially in the northern part of the country.
If you are visiting India during Holi and want to enjoy a safe Holi, here are your options:
- If you have friends here, enjoy the festival with them. Go to their house a night prior to Holi as the festivities start early in the morning and it may be difficult to get a cab on Holi.
- Some hotels so arrange a small get together to celebrate Holi and if you are staying in one of them, you can have some fun there.
- A lot of resorts around main cities offer special Holi Packages that include a night stay, all meals, bon fire & cultural programs on Holi eve. Special arrangements are made for Holi celebrations like a small swimming pool is converted into a pool of colours with rose petals, organic colors and water guns are kept for all guests to make most of this festival. As only the guests staying in the resort are permitted, its pretty safe.
Holi is a symbolic festival that associates with a meaningful legend along with bringing joy and forgiveness to the society. Go ahead, have fun and enjoy a Safe Holi.