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Holi, is one of the major festivals of India, and is celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun, which is the month of March as per the Gregorian calendar.
Holi festival may be celebrated with various names and people of different states might be following different traditions. But, what makes Holi so unique and special is the spirit of it, which remains the same throughout the country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated.
There is an old story in Hinduism that marks the celebration of the Hindu festival called “Holi”. It goes like this-
“In Vaishnavism, Hiranyakashipu is the great king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed “during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra”. Consequently, he grew arrogant and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping Gods and start worshiping him instead.
According to this belief, Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Vishnu. He was poisoned by Hiranyakashipu, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre in the lap of Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s demoness sister, who also could not die because she had a boon preventing her from being burned by fire. Prahlada readily accepted his father’s orders, and prayed to Lord Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed. The salvation of Prahlada and burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.”
In many parts of India, Holi is celebrated as Vasanta Utsav, or the festival of spring. Gulaal and Abir are different names for the powdered colors that are used in abundance during the festival. It marks the various colors of bloom of the spring season. The colors mark the joy and abundance and they are meant to be applied on the faces of all those one meets.
Temples and houses are cleaned and decorated with flowers and coloured powders during Holi. People plan community gatherings and visit each other’s houses in order to greet each other with sweets and Gulaal. They smear each other’s faces with colours and exchange pleasantries. It is s festival that also has the social sanction to mingle freely and brings every strata of the society to the same plane of joy and sharing. The music too is an intrinsic part of the festival of Holi.
While adults too play the festival in their own way, watching kids play Holi is sheer delight. Early in the morning their parents groom them, dress them in pretty clothes (preferably white—they are kids and have nothing to do with the cleaning mess, okay?), feed them delicious home prepared sweets, make them do the prayers or any other rituals of their household, fill buckets full of water-balloons for them, hand over their water-guns to them, and finally let these little things go out and play with their friends, while keeping a watch on them. Once out, these kids will stop at nothing and run around enjoying themselves like there is no tomorrow.
Ecstasy of Bhang
There is also a tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this day to further enhance the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display. Some, however, take bhang in excess and spoil the spirit. Caution should therefore be taken while consuming bhang delicacies.
After a fun filled and exciting day, the evenings the spent in sobriety when people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.
It is said the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society and even the enemies turn friend on this day. People of all communities and even religions participate in this joyous and colorful festival and strengthen the secular fabric of the nation.
- For Sikhs, Holi is actually celebrated as ‘Hola Mohalla’.
- In Barsana, Uttar Pradesh, Holi is celebrated as ‘Lathmaar Holi’
- In Haryana it’s known as ‘Dulandi Holi’
- It’s also known as ‘Rang Panchami’ in the state of Maharashtra.
- The funfilled and enthusiastic people of Goa know Holi by the name of ‘Shimgo’ in their local dialect Konkani
- In the state of Tamil Nadu, people worship Kaamdev for his supreme sacrifice on the occasion of Holi. People know holi by 3 names- 1) Kaman Pindigai, 2) Kamavilas and 3) Kamadahanam.
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