The Legend of Holi - The Festival of Colors
Even though Holi ended last month, I've been curious about its origins. For centuries, India has celebrated Holi. Today, this auspicious Hindu event is better known as the Festival of Colors.
In the past decade the celebration has transcended the Indian sub-continent to all over the globe. In the Bay Area, Stanford University has become a popular gathering for people of all races, genders and ages.
Holi is a time where family, friends and strangers get together to dance, throw colored powders, laugh and generally act youthful!
It marks the arrival of spring and is always celebrated either in February or March. It's also the last full moon of winter in the Hindu-Lunar calendar.
Holi celebrates the new seasons harvest, the triumph of good versus evil and love.
How did Holi start?
I asked many friends that take part in Holi yearly to tell me about the origins and to my surprise almost no one had a clue - including me.
I was curious and learned that it all started from a story. Whether it’s true or not is something I can’t answer, but similar to the Gita and Ramayana - the story of Holi paints colorful stories and symbolic gestures to communicate morality.
The Story of Holi
The word Holi originates from the word Holika. The story goes as follows:
Once upon a time there lived a demon King named Hiranyakashipu. He was given a boon (blessing) from god for good deeds in a previous life making him immortal and powerful like a god. Immortality and power became Hiranyakashipu greatest weakness for he was relentless in his pursuit to be worshiped by all his citizens.
He had a son named Prahlada who saw passed his arrogance and took Lord Vishnu as his savior instead. This made Hiranyakashipu so jealous and furious that he subjected his own son through torment and torture by force so he could try to relinquish his belief in Vishnu. This did not work, and Prahlada remained a devotee to the Lord.
Hiranyakashipu could not take this from anyone, let alone his own kin. He decided to kill his son with the help of his demon sister Holika and aunt to Prahlada.
The plan was set. Holika tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre (combustible material) with her. She had a cloak on that would protect her from the fire. To Hiranyakashipu’s dismay, Holika burned to ashes and Prahlada was saved by Lord Vishnu who later killed Hiranyakashipu. The burning of Holika represents the triumph of good versus evil and is regarded as Holi.
Another Legend of Krishna and Radha
This is a story of love. Krishna was self-conscious and saddened that he did share the same skin color as Radha. With the advice of his mother he playfully painted her face until it became the same color as his. They had so much fun that he forgot why he was sad and the two fell more deeply in love.
2 Day Celebration
The night before Holi is known as Holika Dahan. Wood is burned in the pyre to commemorate the victory of good over evil. The next day is Rangwali Holi where colorful powders are thrown in an outdoor frenzy.
Although Holi is celebrated everywhere, India and Nepal regard it as their Thanksgiving. After a day of throwing powders and running around commences, families and friends visit each other and share savory foods, sweets and well-wishes.
India is a country full of beauty, myths, stories of tall tales, romance and mystery. Rituals like Holi are symbolic for wishing others a life of prosperity in all facets. Mark your calendars for next year and make sure to take part in the festivities!
There are many holidays that the Indian community celebrates and we at Bharat Bazar can provide the necessary ingredients to make any of your auspicious events a reality.
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