The Festival of Colours in a Snap - All about Holi..! India is a colourful country that is rich in festivities and culture. Although the year is filled with festivals and pujas, none are as colourful as the vibrant festival of Holi. It is literally the festival of colours. Predominantly celebrated in North India, the festival has since found its way into all of India and spread to other countries as well. The reason this day is welcomed so much is the fact that it signifies the arrival of spring. From the harsh wintry cold, the season changes to a mellow, sunny yet cool, breezy ambiance. It is the day that marks the beginning of the Spring harvest season. Altogether an auspicious event, the colours are the cherry on top of the cake. Young and old alike express their joy by flinging colourful powder or splashing their friends and families with coloured water. The bright colours leave a mark not only on the clothes of the people but in everyone’s hearts as well.
The Holi festival dates differ each year as they are marked from the alignment of certain stars and planets with relation to the earth. It usually falls on the day after the full moon in March of each year. This year Holi will be celebrated on March 10. The festivities will however begin the night before. The eve of Holi called the Holi Dahan is on March 9th. The dates differ in the states of Odisha and West Bengal. They call the day as Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima and will be celebrated on March 9th. The celebrations are similar to the rest of the states but the festival is dedicated to Lord Krishna. It signifies the day he conquered the demoness Holika and the name of the festival is derived from her name.
On the eve of Holi, on the Holi Dahan, people gather around in vast public grounds. Huge bonfires are lit, the light of which can be seen from miles about. The lighting of the bonfires is referred to as Holi Ka Dahan. A special Puja is held in praise of Lord Krishna and people from all the neighbouring areas come to worship him. Men and Women in colourful costumes dance around the fire singing songs in praise of Lord Krishna and praying that the harvest season will yield a rich bounty of crops. They then ritualistically walk around the fire three times. Few villages have the practise of walking across hot coals which is considered very auspicious and is done to appease the Gods. This practice is predominantly from the state of Gujarat. There is a particular village in Uttar Pradesh called Falen. The people there claim that the legend of Holi originated from their village. When the demon HiranyaKashipu was enraged that his son Prahlad worshipped Vishnu, he swore to kill him. He entrusted the task to his sister, the demoness Holika. She carried the boy into a burning pyre in the confidence that the fire would not harm her, but kill Prahlad. But his sincere devotion saved him from the fire and the demoness was burnt instead. According to local legends, Falen is the place where this mythical incident is said to have happened. To commemorate the victory of Vishnu over Holika, the village priests have been enacting the event since time immemorial. They walk through a burning pyre with the name of Vishnu on their lips and emerge unscathed. The priests say they owe this miraculous feat to meditating and praying to the Lord.
Like the name suggests it is indeed a colourful festival. The entire day is spent in raucous fun and play with family, friends and neighbours. Coloured water is mixed in large quantities and colour powders are stocked at large. Children and adults alike dress in white clothes and chase each other through the homes and streets trying to splash one another with as much colour as possible. Sweets and other delicacies are made to be shared with loved ones. It is inevitable that if you step out on Holi, you will be splashed with colour. In few parts of India, a traditional drink made with Bhang, a derivative of the Cannabis plant are consumed. Huge parties are organised so that people can celebrate the festival as a community. The festivities are most special in the cities of Mathura and Vrindavan, the residences of Lord Krishna himself. The entire town comes to the streets and it is a riot of colours and people.
As mentioned earlier, in the states of West Bengal and Odisha the festival is for the worship of Lord Krishna. Apart from the celebrations there are rituals that are held in temples and local gathering grounds. It celebrates the love of Radha and Krishna. Folklore has it that Krishna professed his love for Radha on this particular day. Palanquins of all sizes are richly decorated and idols of Radha and Krishna are placed in them. The palanquins are then taken in a procession. People volunteer to carry the palanquins as it is said to gain the favour of Lord Krishna. The idols are covered in Coloured powder. Which is also thrown at the devotees in the procession. The pujas and preparations for Dol Jatra begin 6 days before the actual festival. Holi is a tempting festival that captivates us with its colours. However take care that you wear only old clothes that day. Keep within a safe environment amidst friends and family. To the maximum extent possible try to use safe and natural colours that will not harm your skin and hair. If you are participating in the celebrations you are sure to be smeared from head to toe in colours, therefore ensure you protect yourself from the colours entering your eyes, nose and mouth, which could cause allergies. Enjoy Holi with abandon while taking the necessary precautions for a safe and happy festival.