Holi is a Hindu spring festival that originated from the Indian subcontinent, celebrated predominantly in India and Nepal, but has also spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world through the diaspora from the Indian subcontinent, also known as the “festival of colours” or the “festival of love”. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. It is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. It lasts for a night and a day, starting on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Vikram Samvat Hindu Calendar month of Phalgun, which falls somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar. The first evening is known as Holika Dahan (burning of demon Holika) or Chhoti Holi and the following day as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah.
In addition to India and Nepal, the festival is celebrated by Indian subcontinent diaspora in countries such as Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Mauritius, and Fiji. In recent years the festival has spread to parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colours.
However, Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil is destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, who was killed in the fire. The next morning is celebrated as Rang wali Holi – a free-for-all festival of colours, where people smear each other with colours and drench each other. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also used to play and colour each other. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children, and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing, and dance. People visit family, friends, and foes to throw coloured powders on each other, laugh, gossip, and share Holi delicacies, food, and drinks. Some customary drinks include bhang (made from cannabis), which is intoxicating. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up and visit friends and family and it is celebrated with vibrant colours – these colour are actually colours of joy, colours of love and colours that fill the life with happiness to the core of hearts. It adorns each life with its various hues.
It’s a festival of gaiety but then there are few who make this festival, a festival of evil. They do this by infuriating the strangers by forcefully throwing colours on them; some use colours that are difficult to remove and unsafe for skin and health. Many take it as a day of drinking alcohol. We should not drink intoxicating drunk; we should not use colour to anyone forcefully and we should not forget that Holi is a festival of the triumph of good over evil. We must try to wash away all the evils in our hearts along with the colours and allow the colour of love to stay there forever and ever. This is the true spirit of Holi.
– Md Intekhab
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