Celebrating Colours


The festival of colours, also known as Holi is celebrated on the full moon day falling in the month of Phalguna. People celebrate the festival to welcome the beautiful colours of spring. Holi is celebrated with colours thrown on each other, music and lots of fun and celebrations. Almost all the festivals in India are celebrated because the good triumphed over the evil, likewise there is a mythology associated with Holi too.

History of Holi

According to ancient mythology, there is a legend of King Hiranyakashipu with whom Holi is associated. He was a king and he has been mentioned in the ancient literature as a demon who wanted to avenge the death of his younger brother who was killed by Lord Vishnu. He prayed for years so that he could be granted a boon. When he was granted a wish, he chose power that he began to misuse and began to consider himself as God. He wanted the people to worship him as they would worship the Gods. There was only person who refused to follow the command and it was his young son, Prahalad who was a devout follower of Lord Vishnu.

King Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his own son because he refused to obey his commands. He asked his sister ‘Holika’, who was immune to fire, to sit on a pyre of fire with Prahalad in her lap. Their plan was to burn Prahalad to ashes, but the ploy did not work because Prahalad kept on chanting the name of Lord Vishnu and he was unscathed. What happened instead was that Holika got burnt to ashes. The defeat of Holika signifies the burning of all that is bad. A battle waged after this incident and Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu.

Holi is a festival that welcomes the springs and bids adieu to the winters. In some states, Holi is also associated with the harvests that happen in the springtime. Farmers celebrate this festival after they have harvested the grains for the year and the rejoice the good harvest. The name Vasant Mahautsav denotes the Holi celebrations in the states that associate it with harvesting.

Holi is one of the oldest Hindu festivals and it has been mentioned in ancient religious books like, Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutra. There are sculptures in some temples in India that depict the festival being played. You can find these sculptures in the temples of Hampi that date back to the 16th century. The temple has many scenes from Holi sculpted on its walls showing princes and princesses along with their maids holding pichkaris to squirt water on royals.

The colours of Holi

Earlier, Holi colors used to be made from flowers of tesu or palash tree and known as gulal. The colours used to be very good for skin as no chemicals were used to make these. But today the traditional colours have given way to harsh colours that are filled with chemicals and toxins that is not good for your hair or your skin. We need to start playing the festival by using natural and organic colours that are good for the skin.

Celebrating Holi

Did you know that Holi is a festival that is spread over three days?

One the first day that typically falls on a full moon day people arrange coloured powder and water in a thaal and the eldest male person of the home starts the celebration by sprinkling colour on the family.

The second day is also known as Puno and on this day people burn effigies of Holika as a reminder that good always triumphs over the evil. They also light a bonfire and take five rounds of the bonfire in a clockwise direction to seek the blessing of the God of fire.

The third day is known as Parva and it marks the final day of the celebrations. People rejoice the good over evil and celebrate it by playing with coloured powders. In Vrindavan, the abode of Lord Krishna, who loved to play Holi with his friends, the idols of Radha and Krishna are worshipped and smeared with colours.

The festival comes with its own modernisation issues. From using synthetic colours that are not good for you or the earth to issues of deforestation that happens because of the pyres that are burnt for the Holika Dahan are serious environmental issues that we must keep a check on. It is important that we take care of the environment and indulge in conscious celebrations.

Image: Gyaandarpan


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