(Last Updated on : 20/02/2010)
Holi symbolizes dawn, light, life and a surge of energy. Holi, a festival, which begins at night, suggests destruction of evil and a hope of good. In the beginning it was celebrated as festival of fertility and harvest but today it is also celebrated in the commemoration of some Hindu legends. Since it symbolizes rebirth. Holi is celebrated in the month of March or in the month of Phalgun (Hindu calendar) or Masi (mid-Feb to mid-March). Holi is also called Kamadahana (destruction of passionate desires). It lasts for two or five days in different parts of the country. It is even celebrated for sixteen days at few places. A fire, Holika, is lit at night nearly in he night; and people offer coconuts and flowers to the Holika.
The origin of Holi is not specific, though many mythological legends are described for its celebration. It is older than the current legends explained for its origin. Holika was Hiranyakashyapu`s evil sister, who was immune to fire and she had gained this power, after a long penance. So he told her to use the same for killing his son Prahlad, by sitting on a pyre with Prahlad on her lap. But, instead Prahlad came out of the fire alive and scar free, but in the due process Holika was burnt to death, since her powers lost their effect before Pralhad `s faith. Thus, this day is celebrated to commemorate the good`s victory over evil (Holika).
Another narrative of the love of Lord Krishna and Radha is prevalent. Lord Krishna often told his mother, Yashodha, about Radha who unlike him was fair in complexion. So one day, his mother told him to try some colour on her, to see a change in her complexion. Thus, Krishna took different colours and coloured Radha and the Gopis. Radha and Gopis were reluctant to play with colours but they enjoyed it. This instance thus, became an occassion of merry-making every year, where Krishna continued this festival in Vrindavan, Gokul, Nandgaon, Barsana
. Thus, this celebration introduced colours to Holi. It is this mischievous spirit of courtship that enters this festival and Holi, thus honours the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
In Tamil Nadu
, people honour the sacrifice of Kama Dev (God of Love). Parvati wanted to marry Lord Shiva. But since Lord Shiva was in his penance, he didn`t even look at her. The marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati was necessary. Hence, in order for their marriage all the Devas and Dootas decided to take the help of Manmatha (Kama Deva), in order to arouse a feeling of love for Parvati in Shiva`s heart. He was aware of Shiva`s third eye which emits out fire and was ready to give his life for a good cause. Thus, in order to disrupt his penance, Kama Dev shot five of his arrows of love at Lord Shiva`s heart at the moment when he was looking at Parvati with his half-open eyes. This interrupted Shiva`s penance and he being furious opened his third eye and instantaneously Kama Dev was burned to ashes. Lord Shiva smeared his forehead with Kama Deva`s ashes and disappeared. At the request of Rati (Kama Deva`s wife), Kama Deva was brought back to life but in a form visible only to Rati and Shiva. This incident of burning off Kama Dev is called kamadahana or Holi in Tamil Nadu. The posture of God burning kama is called kama dahana murthi (Shiva`s murthy facing south) and is one of the 25 maheshvara murthis.
Fire marks the beginning of Holi. Earlier it was celebrated all over India for five days. Holi is just not about light, colours and sweets; it is also about wishes, love, friendship. The customs and traditions to lit Holika and the celebration of Holi vary slightly in some parts of the country. One can call Holi by any name he wants but the spirit of Holi can never change. It is called Latthmar holi in Barsana, Nandgaon, Mathura; Dulandi holi in Haryana; Ranpanchami or Shimga or Shimgo in Maharashtra and Goa; Basanti Poornima or Vasant Poornima in Shantiniketan; Dol Poornima, Dol Jatra in West Bengal and Orissa; Hola Mohalla in Punjab; Phagu Poornima or Phagwa in Bihar; Kaman Pandigai in Tamil Nadu.
During Holi, in some states, there is a custom in the undivided Hindu families that the women of the families beat their brother-in-law with her sari rolled up into a rope. This is done in a mock rage as the brother-in-law tries to douse her in colour. In the evening, he brings her sweetmeats. It is also tradition, at few other places, to invite son-in-laws for meals. They are presented with Pyalas - a crisp note of any denomination from rupees five to five hundred along with a glass of a drink. The mother of the married girls gives them Kothli or travel-money in laws or the eldest lady in the family. At few places, mothers give their daughters new dresses. Sweets are an inseparable part of any festival. During the day of Holi boys enjoy Bhang, since it gives one a feel of ecstacy. Thandai from Gujarat is a sweet drink made from milk is also a favourite of the people.
After a boisterous activity, people feast on vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals. But the quiet evenings are marked by visits of relatives and friends. Here, sweets are exchanged which demonstrate a sharing attitude. People all over India like Puranpoli, a very favoured dish from Maharashtra. Other sweets such as gujiya, mathri, petha, malpua, dahi badas, bara, gulgula, phulourie, bigany, mango or tamarind chutney, potato ball, prasad, channa, ghoja, mahambhoog, kheer or sweet rice are also prepared at Holy gatherings in temples. Celebration of Holi differs in various parts. Thus, we see different moods of Holi- the aggressive mood in Nandgaon and Barsana and the serene in West Bengal. There is much adrenaline flow in Punjab during Holi.
Holi in Indian States
The festival of Holi is celebrated in India by spraying colors on each other.It is celebrated in most regions of the country in one form or another. In some parts of India, Holi is also considered a New Year`s celebration!