Holi - from its mythological past to its present. The festival of Holi actually starts the night before with a bonfire made up of all the dried leaves and branches left through the winter. It is a way of clearing these and making way for spring. Metaphorically though, the fire is meant to signify the destruction of evil - the burning of the ‘Holika’ - a mythological character. The heat from the fire is also a reminder that winter is behind and that the hot summer days are ahead.
It is spring time in India, flowers and fields are in bloom and the country goes wild with people running on the streets and smearing each other with brightly hued powders and coloured water. This is the festival of Holi, celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. Originally Holi is a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land.
Holi has long traditional links with several legends. According to one popular legend, the word Holi is derived from the demoness, Holika. She was the sister of Hiranyakashyap, a demon king, who having defeated the Gods, proclaimed his own supremacy over everyone else in the Universe. He was a cruel and tyrannical ruler. All his subjects followed his orders except for his son Prahlad. Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. This infuriated his father who wanted to punish him. The king asked Prahlad to embrace a red hot pole. But, he was unhurt. Then, he asked Prahlad to jump off a steep cliff, but Prahlad was unscathed again. Prahlad obeyed his father each time chanting Vishnu's name. Hiranya Kasyapu ordered that Prahlad be trampled by an elephant. His efforts to kill prahlad went in vain. As Prahlad was not hurt by all the punishment, Hiranya Kasyapu called his sister Holika from the gods that she would not burn in a fire. Holika carries Prahlad into the fire but a divine intervention destroys her and saves Prahlad from getting burned. Eventually, the ordeals faced by Prahlad climaxed in the emanation of Narahari or Narasimha who destroyed Hiranya Kasyapu. Again, this displayed the triumph of a true Bhakta (devotee) over the evil represented by Hiranya Kasyapu. Prahlada never lost faith in the Lord despite all his ordeals. Before she died, she realised her follies and begged the boy's forgiveness. As his gesture of forgiveness, Prahlad deemed that her name would be remembered at least one day in the year. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation. This exuberant festival is alsoThus Holi is celebrated to mark the burning of the evil Holika. It is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.
Holi - The harvest Festival
All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic elements in them. Holi is no exception. Every season has a festival of its own. Holi is the great spring festival of India. Being an agricultural country India's two big festivals are at harvest time when the barns and granaries of our farmers are full and they have reason to enjoy & fruits of their hard labour. The harvest season is a festive season all over the world.
Man wants relaxation and change after hard work. He should be cheered up when he is depressed on account of work and anxieties. Festivals like these supply him with the real food and tonic to restore his cheer and peace of mind.
The social element in Holi is the uniting or "embracing" of the great and the small, of the rich and the poor, and also amongst the equals. The festival teaches us to "let the dead bury the dead". Forget the outgoing years ill-feeling and begin the New Year with love, sympathy, co-operation and equality with all. Try to feel this oneness a unity with the Self also.
Holi also means "sacrifice". Burn all the impurities of the mind such as egoism vanity, lust, etc., through the fire of devotion and knowledge.. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity, selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Get up from the mire of stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of divinity. The call of Holi is to keep always the blaze of God-love shining in your heart. Inner spiritual illumination is real Holi. The spring season is the manifestation of the Lord, according to the Bhagavad Gita. Holi is there said to be His heart.
Holi announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. It is a festival that breathes an atmosphere of social merriment. People bury their hatchets with a warm embrace and throw their worries to the wind. Every nook and corner presents a typically colorful sight.
Young and old alike are drenched with colors (red, green, yellow, blue, black and silver). On Holi, people are suddenly caught unawares with colors being poured from atop the houses, bursting balloons, or long pistons squirting colored water. People in small groups are seen singing, dancing and throwing colors on each other.
Smearing colours on friends and dear ones is the basic idea of Holi, no one is spared. Both the young and the old enjoy throwing water balloons, dry colours, and washable dyes on anyone in sight on the day of the Holi. People go around in streets, with tin drums, armed with tonnes of colours and big syringes filled with coloured water and at the end of the day no one will even remotely resemble themselves.
Holi is also synonymous with bhang, which is consumed by many in the form of ladoos and ghols. One could get away with almost anything on this day; squirting coloured water on passers-by and dunking friends in the mud pool saying "bura na mano, Holi hai" (don't feel offended, it's Holi). Holi is the time when people from all castes and social strata come together forgetting all past differences and grievances.
The festival is a favourite with most Indians for being the most colourful and joyous of all. Every year it succeeds in bridging the social gap, between employers and employees, men and women. People visit homes, distribute sweets and apply gulal (colour) on each other , signifying the colourful and happy spring times ahead. They greet each other, embracing three times.
Apart from this usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions, which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned gaiety.
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