The festival of colors, Holi, is a Hindu spring festival celebrated with enthusiasm and joy, primarily in India and Nepal. Also known as the ‘Spring Festival,’ Holi marks the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, and a time for merriment and renewal. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day (Purnima) of the Hindu month of Phalgun, which usually falls in March. This vibrant and joyous festival is celebrated with enthusiasm and exuberance and is deeply rooted in Indian mythology. Lashkaraa explores this Hindu holiday in detail.
Origin and Traditions of Holi
What is Holi? The origin of Holi can be traced back to various legends and mythologies, each contributing to the cultural significance of the festival. The most prominent story associated with the origin of Holi is the Legend of Holika and Prahlada. As one of the most well-known legends associated with Holi, the story of Holika and Prahlada is taken from Hindu mythology.
Hiranyakashipu, a powerful demon king, sought to be worshiped as a God. However, his son Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to worship his father. Hiranyakashipu tried various ways to kill Prahlada, but none succeeded. Finally, he sought the help of his sister, Holika, who had a boon making her immune to fire. Her deception was to wear a cloak that protected her from fire, as she sat on a pyre with Prahlada in an attempt to burn him. However, due to Prahlada’s devotion to Lord Vishnu and Holika’s misuse of her powers, the boon backfired. Holika was consumed by the flames, while Prahlada emerged unharmed. This story is remembered as symbolic of the victory of good over evil. On the eve of Holi, the ritual bonfire called ‘Holika Dahan’ is carried out as a remembrance.
Another popular legend associated with Holi involves the childhood of Lord Krishna, who was known for his playful and mischievous nature. According to the legend, young Krishna was upset that his complexion was dark while Radha, his beloved, had a fair complexion. In a mischievous attempt to remedy this, Krishna playfully applied colors on Radha's face. This act is believed to be the origin of the tradition of playing with colors during Holi.
In contemporary times, both events are celebrated during the festival. As it’s a reminder of love, positivity and acceptance over impure intentions, the festival enables the streets, public spaces, and homes to become lively with laughter, music, and dance. The spirit of celebration at Holi brings people together, breaking social barriers, and enjoying each other’s company. No Indian festival is complete without sweets and this one involves gujiya (sweet dumplings), mathri, and thandai (a traditional drink made with milk, nuts, and spices). Families and friends gather for festive meals and celebrations.
Holi Outside of India
Holi, the festival of colors, has transcended its cultural and geographical roots in India and is now celebrated in various parts of the world, often with enthusiasm and excitement. The festival’s exuberant and vibrant nature, combined with its positive and inclusive message, has contributed to its global appeal. Holi is celebrated outside of India in social aspects like community events which are organized in many countries by a significant Indian diaspora. These events often include the traditional throwing of colors, music, dance, and festive foods.
While Holi celebrations outside of India may vary in scale and style, the essence of the festival—marked by the playful throwing of colors, joyous gatherings, and a sense of community—is often preserved. It serves as a bridge between cultures, promoting understanding and appreciation of India's cultural heritage.
How To Dress For Holi
What to wear for Holi requires some consideration to ensure that you can enjoy the festival while protecting your clothing and, more importantly, your skin. Here are some tips on how to dress for Holi:
1. Wear Old Clothes
Choose clothes that you don’t mind getting stained, as the colored powders used during Holi can leave lasting marks on fabrics.
2. White Clothing
Wearing white is a popular choice for Holi as it allows the vibrant colors to show up more prominently. One can opt for long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants, like a punjabi suit, to minimize skin exposure and protect yourself from direct contact with the colored powders.
3. Apply Oil or Moisturizer
Apply a layer of oil or moisturizer on your skin before playing Holi. This can make it easier to wash off the colors later and provides a layer of protection for your skin.
4. Wear a Hat or Bandana
Protect your hair by wearing a hat or tying a bandana. This helps prevent the colors from settling in your hair.
Consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from colored powders. Ensure that they are not your expensive or designer sunglasses.
6. Use Eco-Friendly Colors
Whenever possible, use eco-friendly and natural colors. These are not only safer for the environment but are also generally easier to wash off.
7. Protect Your Phone and Wallet
Use waterproof pouches or covers to protect your phone and wallet. It's a good idea to keep these essential items secure from water and colors.