Holi is a Hindu festival of colors that is celebrated on the last full moon day in winter. This year, Holi, which is one of the eldest of holidays, falls on March 17.
Celebrations for Holi begin on the eve before the actual day with prayer and bonfires. It is celebrated by Hindus not only all over India but throughout the world, and is widely considered the most fun and boisterous of Hindu holidays. Holi is a celebration of many things, including the end to winter, immortal love, and the beginning of spring harvest.
During Holi, social barriers are broken and Hindus can get away with almost anything. People of all genders, ages, and social statuses gather free of inhibitions. The saying on this joyful holiday is roughly translated to be “don’t mind, it is Holi.” Colored powder and water is thrown on everyone, celebrating the various integrating themes of the holiday.
The origin of Holi, the eldest of Hindu holidays, is told through many sacred Hindu texts and is passed down from generation to generation, which can cause many to have their own translations of the stories. One popular story is the celebration of Prahlada, a young follower of the Hindu god Vishnu. Prahlada was the son of the god of demons, Hiranyakashipu, who would not tolerate his son’s commitment to Vishnu.
Hiranyakashipu made many attempts to kill his son, by poisoning him and throwing him off of a mountain, but he never succeeded. Prahlada’s demon sister, Holika, was unable to be burned by fire. Hiranyakashipu demanded that his son sit on a pyre, or a wooden structure usually used for burning corpses, which was positioned on his sister’s lap. Prahlada hesitantly did as he was told. Unexpectedly, Holika was the one who burned to death while Prahalda survived unharmed due to his faith in Vishnu. Because of this age-old story, it is commonly tradition to light large bonfires signifying the burning of Holika.
For many, Holi also celebrates the eternal love of Radha and Krishna, as well as the story of the Hindu god of love, who was killed and later given life again. While the stories can differ greatly between regions, the story of Prahlada, Radha and Krishna, and the god of love are the three most popular.
Beginning Monday, Holi is one of the oldest of Hindu festivals, with evidence of it dating back to medieval paintings and wall statues in ancient temples. Bhang, a drink widely consumed during the festival, contains a version of the cannabis plant with intoxicating results.
Day one of Holi, the eldest of Hindu holidays, involves the oldest male of the family sprinkling paint on his relatives. On day two, images of Holika are burned and huge bonfires are started throughout the towns along with singing and dancing. The final day of the celebration is by far considered the wildest. Celebrants drape themselves in white clothing and take to the streets to smear each other with brightly colored paints, powders and water. Water balloons filled with colored water are thrown out into the streets and at passersby. Young people pay their respect to elders, and the gods Krishna and Radha are celebrated.
By Nathan Rohenkohl