By Aakanksha Advani, 

What is Holi?

Holi which is also known as the festival of colours is the most spirited, lively festival amongst all the Hindu festivals. It marks the end of winter in India and embraces the spring season. On this festive day, people walk out of their houses to paint each other with colour. All types of colours are available in powdered form. People also pour coloured water on each other and cook different varieties of sweets and other foods also. The Hindus believe that spring is full of colours thus in every aspect of Holi colour is involved.

How is Holi celebrated?

There are 5 steps that help in the process of celebrating Holi. The first one being the preparation for the pyre. A few days before the main festival people start collecting pieces of woods and other inflammable materials. After collecting the materials the wood logs are tied up and made in a conical structure.  There is one log that is kept outside to throw in the Holika (the term used for the conical structure).

Second step; The burning of the Holika. There are two names given to this ritual. Holika Dahan (combustion) or Chhoti Holi. After sunset people gather around the Holika and light it and complete the puja (prayers). People sing, walk, dance around the pyre as it represents the victory of good over evil.

Third step; The day of playing with colours. The day finally arrives when people step out and throw colours on one another. Since it is celebrated all over there are many names to it. In Assam its called Phukuwa, Khadi Holi in Uttar Pradesh, Hola Mohalla in Punjab, Rang Panchami in Maharashtra, etc. Not only colours but the use of water also plays a vital role in Holi. Children also play with pichakaris (water guns) and water balloons.

Fourth step; The goodies that get served. There is a special feast that has various types of sweet dishes. One of the famous dishes is called gujiya. It is a dumpling made out of flour and filled with a mixture of khoya or Mawa. A very special drink is provided to all the people playing called Thandai. Which is made out of milk and is spiked by bhang. Other street foods like chole bhature, raj kachori, gol gappe, dahi bhalle and other mouth-watering dishes are presented that day.

Fifth step: Cleaning up and meeting relatives. After the Holi party, people usually wash off all the colour, wear clean clothes and go to meet their relatives and to greet their friends.

Why is Holi celebrated?

History says that there was once a mighty king named Hiranyakashipu. He was hated for his brutal and cruel behaviour. He believed he was god and wanted his full kingdom including his son Prahlada to worship him. But his worshipped Lord Vishnu and refused to worship his father. In anger, Hiranyakashipu tried really hard to kill his son (because of his disobedience ) but all the attempts were futile. He then approached his sister Holika to kill his son. Holika had control a certain type of power. She was immune to fire. So she tricked Prahlada into sitting with her on a pyre (on burning wood). But due to Holika’s evil intentions, she got burned into ashes herself. And Prahlada was saved like always. This is the reason why the first day of Holi is called the Holika Dahan which symbolizes good over evil.

A local folk tale says that when Krishna was a baby his body was blue in colour (because of the poison he drank from the demons ‘Putana’ breast). When he grew a little old he got insecure about skin colour because he thought none of the fair skinned girls in the village especially Radha will like him. As a solution to this Krishna’s Mother, Yashoda advised him to put colour on Radha’s face. And the day Krishna put the colour of Radha’s face they became a couple. From that time the people have started playing with colours. This is the reason why colours are a crucial ingredient while playing Holi.

A grand-monther may like it for history, whereas a child likes it for all the colour and fun.

Therefore in places like Braj (where Lord Krishna grew up) which is in Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh Rangpanchmi is celebrated at a massive scale in the memory of the divine love of Lord Krishna and Radha as mentioned in the tale.

Holi is a very important festival, not to forget, it is a lot of fun. Different age groups like it for different reasons. A grand-monther may like it for history, whereas a child likes it for all the colour and fun.

A collection of articles by the students of Ascend International School