Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated with vigour and happiness by Indians across the world every year. According to the Bikram Sambat Hindu calendar, the festival is celebrated on the day of Purnima, the full moon, in the month of Falgun for 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, the festival falls on March 12 and March 13.
In addition to the fun and frolic that’s a part of the celebrations, Holi has a lot of significance. It indicates the victory of good over evil, it marks the onset of spring and the departure of winters and is also celebrated as a thanks-giving for good harvest. People smear each other playfully with colours, spend time together with family members and loved ones and indulge in melt-in-mouth sweets during this time.
The word Holi is derived from the word “hola” the meaning of which is to offer prayers to the gods for good harvest. Holi has a lot of fascinating legends attached to it. It is said that Hiranyakashyap, a demon king, wanted to be immortal. While he wanted everybody to treat him like God, his son Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu. Strongly disapproving, he asked his sister Holika to enter into a furnace with his son Prahlada on her lap. While Holika had the power to protect herself from the fire, she had to sacrifice her life when Lord Vishnu saved Prahlada from the fire and killed Hiranyakashyap instead. This is why the festival is celebrated as the victory of good over evil.
Colours, used extensively during the celebrations also have an interesting history to its role. It was believed that Krishna used to celebrate the festival with colours at Vrindavan and Gokul. 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.
While people smear each other playfully with gulaal or colours, they also sing and dance to traditional folk and classic Bollywood Holi songs. With loud and cheerful cries of “Bura na mano holi hai” in the air, people indulge in delicacies like gujiyas, malpuas, mathri, puran poli, dahi vada and the quintessential Holi drink called thandai. The celebrations also include people forming a human pyramid and breaking a pot full of buttermilk hung up on a considerable height.