What Is Holi?

Come New Year and there are so many festivals to celebrate – the time period marks the end of the winters and the onset of spring and eventually the summer months. One such festival that arrives towards the end of February or beginning of March is Holi – known as the festival of colours, this is a festival that is also a celebration of spring and love. While in one way, this festival is a celebration of the love that was once shared between Radha and Krishna, it is also a day to celebrate that triumph of good over evil, in the story of Lord Vishnu over Hiranyakashipu.
The festival is also the invocation of the spring season, which brings along with it, the spring harvest, and the festivities are meant as a prayer for a good harvest. The festivities start on the night of the full moon, when the Holika Dahan takes place; this day is also known as the Choti Holi and the next morning, is when the actual Holi celebration takes place.
More Than Just A Festival Of Colours – The Stories And Celebrations Behind Holi

What Is The Story Behind Holi?

There are several stories associated with Holi and each has its own significance; as a matter of fact, there are stories in Hinduism, and also in non-Hindu religions such as Jainism, Sikhism and Newar Buddhists. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular stories associated with Holi festival.
  • Radha Krishna – It’s almost like that Radha Krishna and Holi go together, because their love has always been a reason for celebration. Mainly in the Braj region of India, which lies in modern day Uttar Pradesh, is where it is believed that Radha and Krishna were born and lived their lives. In this region, the festival is a celebration of the love these two people shared – legend has it that Krishna was always upset about the fact that Radha was fairer than him and always wondered whether she would genuinely like him. Tired of his constant worrying, his mother Yashoda advised him to ask Radha to colour his face in whichever colour she liked the most. When Radha did the same, they both became a couple and the playful colouring of each other’s faces became a celebration that went on for generations. Today, you can look at some gorgeous beautiful Radha Krishna idol for your home, this Holi.
  • Vishnu – While the most popular connotation of Holi is the onset of spring, there is yet another reason why this festival is celebrated. Holi is supposed to be a celebration of good over evil and there is yet another story associated with it. Once there was a king named Hiranyakashipu, who had a son named Prahlada. While Hiranyakashipu was the king of the Asuras, his son was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu has earned five special powers – he could be killed by neither a human nor an animal, neither outdoors nor indoors, neither on land, water or in the air, neither in the daytime or night and neither with any projectile or handheld weapons. These boons made him very arrogant and he started to think of himself as a god; but his son was in no mood to consider his father a god. Irritated by his son, Hiranyakashipu punished and tortured him and eventually made him sit on a pyre in the lap of his evil sister, Holika. She sat covered in a cloak that was meant to protect her from the fire, but as the fire grew, the cloak flew over Prahlada and protected him. Finally, Vishnu, arrived in the form of Narasimha – half lion and half human and he killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk, while holding him on his lap on the doorstep, with his lion like claws! At eCraftIndia, you can find god idols of Lord Vishnu to decorate your home and mandir, this Holi.
  • Kama and Rati – Yet another legend is associated with Lord Shiva – once, when he was in deep in meditation, Parvati wanted to bring her husband back to domestic life and enlisted the help of Kamadeva. When the love god shot arrows of love at Shiva, he opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva to ashes. An upset Rati, chose to do some stringent and meditative asceticism to get her husband back. Finally, understanding the entire situation, Shiva restores life to Kamadeva and this return of love to life is celebrated as Holi!
Holi was also celebrated in other cultures, including the Mughal times and amongst the Sikhs – in Mughal India, people were allowed to sprinkle colours on the emperor. There are several paintings and murals that depict the playing of Holi; however, Aurangzeb banned all such celebrations and the same were restarted, only after his death. For the Sikhs, it was Guru Gobind Singh, the last of the human gurus of Sikhism, who gave immense importance to the festival. He converted the celebration into Hola Mohalla, a three day long celebration that including a display of martial arts and military exercises. Even Maharaja Ranjit Singh was known to celebrate Holi and mounds of colours would be used and Holi gifts would be sent to dear ones and dignitaries.

Why And When Is Holi Celebrated?

Holi is technically the start of the spring season, as per the Hindu calendar, which is why it is normally a national holiday in India. In the Indian subcontinent, this festival is celebrated on the last full moon of the Hindu luni-solar calendar, which is one of the reasons why, the day might vary from year to year. There are texts, dating back to the 17th century, that identify this as a festival dedicated to agriculture, fertile land and a good spring harvest. It is the time to bid farewell to the winter months and enjoy the abundance that spring tends to bring with it. In several parts of the country, women would get dressed up and worship their agricultural lands with decorative pooja thalis to ensure a good crop, each year. For most people, this is a time to play with colours and enjoy time with the loved ones; in addition, this is also the festival to mend ruptured relations, end any and all conflicts and remove all impurities of the mind.

When Is Holika Dahan? Why We Celebrate Holika Dahan?

As per a legend related to Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu in order to torture his son Prahlada, who was a Vishnu devotee, made him sit in the lap of his sister, Holika. She was wearing a cloak that was meant to protect her from the fire, but when the fire started to rage, the cloak flew from her and covered Prahlada. Holika was consumed by the fire, but Prahlada walked out, unscathed; this incident is meant to showcase the victory of good over evil.

The night before Holi, a large pyre is lit and people throw all those things which they wish to remove or discard from their lives. The process is meant to signify burning all the negativity from our lives and the festival is known as Holika Dahan. For people who might not be able to light proper fires, traditional brass diyas can be used to signify the fire. People sing and dance around the fire and there is generally food and drink that is shared on the evening.

Why Is Holi Called The Festival Of Colours?

The playing with the colours started during the times of Krishna and Radha and that trend continued over the centuries. Traditionally, colours would be made from natural ingredients such as kumkum, neem, haldi, and indigo, but over time, chemical colours took over. However, now, more and more people are now choosing to play with organic Holi colours as these are safer.
If you are looking for Holi gift ideas or want to find some Holi related Radha Krishna paintings online, eCraftIndia is the best place for you!