The Puranas describe Holi as the celebration of love, aptly calling it Kama Mahotsav or Vasant Mahotsav. With a burst of myriad colour, this festival heralds the onset of spring and is celebrated on the last full moon day of the Vedic lunar calendar. There are deep symbolisms to every aspect of this colourful festival, where beliefs and legends come together to birth a spectacular day filled with hues.
Legends and Rituals
Prahlad, Hiranyakashyapu, and Holika
There are several legends associated with Holi with the most prominent one being that of Prahlad, Hiranyakashyapu, and Holika. According to the myth, Hiranyakashyapu – a king – desired total world domination. However, his son Prahlad, choose to be devoted to Lord Vishnu, which angered Hiranyakashyapu. He, along with his sister Holika – who had a boon from the Gods that she can never be burnt by fire – hatched a plan to kill Prahlad. Holika took the young boy and entered a bonfire in the hopes that she won’t be burned and the blazing fire will decimate Prahlad. However, due to Prahlad’s devotion, Lord Vishnu protected him and he came out unscathed, whereas Holika was burned to ashes.
This legend contributes to the ritual of Holika Dahan, which is observed the prior evening. Bonfires are lit at crossroads to signify, burning of the cold, dark days and the evil and bringing in light into the world.
Raas-Rang/ Vasant Mahotsav
According to this legend, on this day, Lord Krishna used to prank the gopis and especially his love, Radha, by dousing them in colours of the spring season. It is said that the love between Lord Krishna and Radha brings the blooms to earth in different hues.
Raas-Rang, which means the colour of love is to date celebrated with glory and pomp in Barsana, Vrindavan, and Dwarka – the places associated with Lord Krishna.
Legend says that Lord Shiva had entered deep meditation for several years which left his consort, Goddess Parvati upset. To bring Lord Shiva’s consciousness back to the world, Kaamdev – the God of Love and Passion – tried to revoke Lord Shiva from his meditation. This angered Lord Shiva and he opened his third eye, thereby decimating Kaamdev.
The sacrifice is symbolic of burning down material attachments and ridding oneself of carnal desires. However, this also succeeded in breaking Lord Shiva’s meditation. Since then, all marriages in Hinduism are commenced after Holi, symbolising the renewal and rebirth of creation.
Holi goes by many names, according to regional rituals. It is celebrated as:
- Dulandi Holi in Haryana
- Rangpanchami/Phagu Purnima in Maharashtra
- Dol Purnima/Dol Jatra in West Bengal
- Lathmaar Holi in Barsana, Uttar Pradesh
- Hola Mohalla in Punjab
- Shimgo in Goa
- Kaman Pandigai in Tamil Nadu
- Gangaur in Rajasthan
Along with the usual burst of colours, bhang – a concoction of cannabis – is an essential element of this festival, which is attributed to Lord Shiva’s return to Grihastya (family life) from Vairagya (detachment). It also signifies the intoxication of love that is the central theme of this festival. So, may your Holi be filled with love and your life with colours!
होली की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें (Heartiest wishes for Holi)