Holi is not just about playing with colours and indulging in sweets but also has a profound history behind it. The festival celebrated by Hindus every year is observed on the day of Purnima, the full moon, in the month of Falgun over two consecutive days — the first day known as Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan and the second as Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan. This year, Holi falls on March 1-2.
Significance of Holi
Holi is a symbol of the triumph of good over evil. It marks the onset of spring and is also celebrated to give thanks for a good harvest. The festival revolves around smearing colour on each others’ faces, splashing people with water by throwing water balloons at them and heartily indulging in sweet delicacies that are made this day.
The word ‘Holi’ itself has a deep significance and it translates into the word “hola”, which means offering prayers to gods for a good harvest. The festival has many myths and legends attached to it. One of these is the story of Hiranyakashyap, who was a demon king and wanted to be immortal. While he wanted everyone to worship him as god, his son Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu.
Offended by his son’s disobedience, he asked his sister, Holika, to kill his son by sitting down in a burning furnace with Prahlada. Holika had a divine gift that fire could not burn her and so she did as her brother told her to. However, Prahlada’s devotion evoked Vishnu’s compassion and he saved the boy from the fire while Holika was burned to death. Vishnu, thereafter defeated and killed Hiranyakashyap as well, marking the victory of good over evil.
Holi is most prominently associated with the colours used on that day and it is rightly called the “Festival of Colours”. However, the colours used on this day also have an interesting tale behind them. It was believed that Krishna used to celebrate the festival with colours at Vrindavan and Gokul.
How is Holi celebrated?
On the first day of the celebrations known as Holika Dahan puja, a bonfire is lit. People gather around the fire known as Chhoti Holi and perform ‘pingpuja’ while praying for the longevity and prosperity of their loved ones. On the second day of celebrations known as Rangpanchami, people play with colours. Another popular legend of Holi celebrations that is extremely popular in southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. It is believed Kaamadeva, the god of passion, awoke Shiva from his deep meditation so he could save the world.
The celebrations also include people forming a human pyramid and breaking a pot full of buttermilk hung up on a considerable height.