Every year, the streets of India turn into colours and frivolity as people across the nation celebrate Holi, a significant festival of Hindu religion that dates back to centuries, however, it’s been adopted by the countries across the globe as a fun festival that brings happiness, love, peace, togetherness, unity, harmony, and humanity. In spite of being such a celebrated festival, there are various aspects of Holi which makes it so significant, popular and fascinating in our lives. Even though they might not be so apparent but a closer look and little observation reveals its significance in more ways than the eyes can see. Ranging from socio-cultural to religious and biological reasons we must embrace and enjoy the festival and cherish the reasons for its celebration as it makes us ‘we’. Moreover, since it’s Holi, don’t hold yourself back and enjoy the one of the biggest festival of the nation to the hilt by participating with full enthusiasm in every small tradition that comes under this grand event that is made of all colours. Holi helps in bringing the society together and strengthening the secular fabric of our country as the whole nation celebrate this joyous festival. The tradition of Holi has always helped in turning enemies into friends and forgetting the feeling of hardship. The festival distorts the line between poor and rich, cast and religion and establishes brotherhood.
There are many stories and legends behind celebrating Holi. According to Hindu mythology, it is believed that the celebration of Holi started centuries ago when Holika was burnt in fire while trying to burn her nephew Prahlad. There was a demon king named Hiranyakashyap, father of Prahlad who tried to burn his son Prahlad when he denied worshipping him as Prahlad was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. When Hiranyakashyap failed many times in trying to kill Prahlad, then he ordered his sister, Holika to sit in the fire by taking Prahlad in her lap as she was booned for never getting harm by fire. However, Hiranyakashyap also failed in this case too as Prahlad was saved by his God whereas Holika burnt to ashes and from that day Hindus started celebrating Holi. The day before Holi, people make a heap of woods on ground and burn it which symbolises Holika and celebrate the ‘Holika Dahan’ ceremony. People also take many rounds of the burning Holika and worship it to get blessed with good health and prosperity by burning all the diseases in the fire. There is also a custom in North India where people massage the body with mustard paste and then burn in Holika believing that they will get rid of all the diseases and evils from the body.
According to another Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva nearly destroyed the world when he got to know that Goddess Sati has immolated herself. After controlling his anger, he renounced all worldly duties and went into deep meditation. The world soon crumbled in his absence and Sati reborn as Goddess Parvati and to win the heart of Lord Shiva. She tried to awake him from his mediation and failed, and then she requested Kamadev, the god of love to help her. However, disturbed by Kamadev’s love arrow, Lord Shiva opened his third eye that turned Kamadev into ashes. Moreover, it is said that it was the day of Holi when Kamadev sacrificed himself for the good. Later, when Lord Shiva came to know the reality, he granted immortality to Kamadev in an invisible form. This legend also gave birth to the custom of offering sandalwood paste to Kamadev on this prosperous occasion to assuage the stinging burns.
Lord Krishna was extremely envious of Radha’s complexion as Radha was very fair and Krishna was dark. So one day he complained to his mother Yashoda that the nature is very unjust as it had made him dark and Radha fair. However, to pacify her son, Yashoda told Krishna to go and colour Radha’s face with whatever colour he wants to. So, Lord Krishna followed the advice and applied colours on the face of Radha making her look like him. Holi is also a celebration of love between Radha and Krishna, that’s why people also play with colours especially with their loved ones as an expression of their love and affection towards them. The legend of Radha and Krishna is enacted every year on the occasion of Holi in places associated with Lord Krishna such Nandgaon, Vrindavan, and Barsana where devotees take out processions to honour the immortal love of Radha and Krishan.
The custom to meet friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings helps in revitalising the relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between people. It is a major ritual during the days of Holi which continues for weeks even after the Holi celebration is done.
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