When is Holi (07.05.2018)
Observed in Countries with Hindu populations, especially India, Mauritius, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka
Observed on Full Moon day of Phalguna, the 12th month of the Hindu calendar
Observed by Hindus
Among India’s numerous religious festivals Holi is easily the most colorful and exciting, and children keenly await it. Falling on the full Moon day of the Hindu month of Phalguna, Holi is observed with great passion throughout India and is one of the most popular festivals there. Many Indian films have portrayed the vibrant colors of Holi on the silver screen. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, as well as the flaming end of the demoness Holika; it is a celebration of happiness and hope.
In some places in northern India Holi can last up to a week. In the state of Manipur in northeast India, it is a six-day festival. However, traditionally it is a two-day festival; Dhulendi, the second day of Holi, is a holiday celebrated all over India as the Festival of Colors.
During Holi old and the young alike gather in the streets to smear each other with colored powder or throw colored powder and water on each other.
It is possibly the most joyous of all Hindu festivals, one that delights people of all ages and classes.
Origins and History
The festival of Holi originated in the ancient Hindu legend of Hiranyakashipu. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology there was a demon king in India named Hiranyakashipu, who wanted to avenge the death of his younger brother, also a demon, who had been slain by Vishnu (one of the trinity of gods in Hinduism).
In order to fight Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu sought to become the ruler of Earth, heaven, and the underworld, performing harsh penance and prayers for numerous years to please Brahma (the all-powerful creator) in order to obtain this power from him.
Finally the king was given a boon by Brahma.
Empowered by the boon Hiranyakashipu felt he was invincible.
The arrogant king ordered everyone in his kingdom to worship him instead of God. But the king’s young son Prahlad was a devotee of Vishnu.
Going against his father’s wishes, Prahalad constantly prayed to Vishnu. Unable to make Prahalad change his ways, the demon king decided to kill him. He asked his sister Holika (from whom the name of the festival is derived) to help him because she was supposedly impervious to fire. They planned to burn Prahalad to death. So Holika sat on a burning pyre with Prahalad on her lap. Yet Prahlad emerged unharmed by the flames and Holika, the demoness, was burned to death. The bonfire on the eve of the festival celebrates that event.
According to Hindu belief, Krishna, an avatar (reincarnation) of Vishnu, is believed to have popularized the colorful tradition of Holi. The origin lies in Krishna’s boyhood. Krishna used to indulge in pranks-his mischievous nature is legendary-by dousing the village girls with colors and water. Initially the girls were upset, but they were so fond of the boy that his popularity overcame their anger.
Other boys joined in and made it a popular sport in that village. With time the tradition stretched to all regions of the country, and, having survived through the ages, it has become a community festival for everyone. The Holi play of Krishna is documented in numerous ancient paintings, sculptures, murals, scriptures, and literary works found throughout the subcontinent.
The best part about the festival is that anger and offenses seem to dissolve with one energetic shout of “Bura na mano, holi hai,” or “Do not be angry, it is Holi.” This boisterous shout is part of the festival’s long tradition. In accordance with the custom of the festival, people collect around bonfires on the evening before the festival day. These bonfires are burned to send away the cold dark winter nights and usher in spring. People sing and dance around the fire to celebrate Prahalad’s miraculous survival and the death of Holika, his wicked aunt. People take cinders from this fire to rekindle their own house fires.
In some places, barley seeds are roasted in the fire, and it is thought that the yield of the coming harvest season can be foretold by reading the future in the roasted seeds or noting the direction the flames take. The remnants of the fire are considered to have curative properties. The morning after the bonfire is Dhulendi, the real Festival of Colors, when children and adults splash each other with colored powder and water. In earlier times, only herbal products and natural colors made from flowers were used; although artificial colors are now cheap and available, old practices seem to be making a comeback.