What is the Holi festival and why is it celebrated?
Sharath Komarraju | On 14, Feb 2014
Legend has it that when Prahlad, the pious son of demon king Hiranyakashipu, was made to sit on a pyre by his aunt, Holika, the cloak that the demoness wore to protect herself flew to encase the person of Prahlad, protecting him and burning her alive. Thus was born the tradition by which the festival of Holi begins with a bonfire in which all evil gets reduced to ashes. Nature is inherently just, this ritual tells us; that she will intervene in the fight between good and evil, that she will ensure that good triumphs.
By another account, the mythical Krishna complains to his mother, Yashoda, that Radha and the other lasses of Vrindavan did not like him because of his dark skin. In exasperation, Yashoda tells him to go and colour Radha’s face in whichever colour he wants. Many believe that this is the origin of the other great Holi ritual, that of smearing colour on the faces of people. The first time Krishna did it to Radha, their love took root and blossomed into a tale that lives to this day.
Like all Indian festivals, Holi has a seasonal significance too. It represents the end of cold, dead winter and the onset of bright, happy spring. No matter how harsh the long winter months, they have to eventually give way to spring. So the celebration of Holi is in fact the celebration of life, in which good and bad times come and go in cycles, each always giving way to the other.
So dance around the bonfire with your loved ones. Colour the faces of your friends and family. If you swing that way, break an egg or two on their heads. When it is all over, have something sweet, dress up in your finery, and visit the important people in your life. Pay respects to your elders, give all the love that you can to your peers, and bless the young. And remember that times – whether good or bad – are temporary, so live them.