Spring rouses a sense of joy and excitement in us all. Each of us celebrates the new season in different ways. For the Hindu community, this means gathering around bonfires and tossing colored powder and water during Holi Festival, also known as the festival of colors.
Holi signifies the victory of good over evil as well as fertility and the first day of spring. The festival begins on the evening of the full moon during the month of Phalguna, with activities carrying on during the next day. Holi usually corresponds with early March and the vernal equinox. It’s a Mindful festival in the Indian community. The strict social rules (caste) are suspended and people of all ages, classes, and genders celebrate together.
Holi Festival Origins
There are several legends behind Holi’s origins. Two common tales behind Holi bonfires and color tossing traditions include that of Prince Prahlad and Lord Krishna.
The legend behind the Holi bonfire comes from the story of Prince Prahlad and his undying faith. Prahlad worshipped the Hindu god Vishnu, who was the enemy of his own father, king of the demons. The king persecuted his son for his beliefs, ordering that Prahlad to be trampled by elephants and placed in a snake pit, but Prahlad’s faith protected him. In the final trial Prahlad and his evil sister, Holika, were made to sit on a burning pyre. Holika died, but Prahlad survived later becoming a wise king.
The Holi tradition of tossing colored powder at people comes from the legend of Lord Krishna. When he was a mischievous child, young Krishna was jealous of his friend Radha’s light complexion since his own skin was rather dark. Krishna complained to his mother, Yashoda, who playfully suggested that her son throw colored powder at his friend’s face, so Radha would be more like Krishna. This was the beginning of the colorful tradition.
On Holi eve a bonfire is lit, representing the victory of good (Prahlad) over evil (Holika). People gather to chant and sing. And in the morning they place ashes on their foreheads. On Holi, the Festival of Colors, people gather in the streets to throw colorful powder or “gulal” and use “pichkaris,” long pistols or syringes filled with colored water. Traditionally, elders share stories and legends. Families cook special foods like savory samosas and the sweets like ladoos. They also exchange gifts, host parties, and use colorful decorations.
Holi Festivals Around the World
Holi Festivals are celebrated in communities around the world like Toronto; Western Cape, South Africa; London, England; Los Angeles, California, and throughout India. To learn more consider reading these Holi facts.