Quick fact: Hinduism is the third most popular religion in the world and is practiced by the majority of Indians around the world.
The festival of Holi is especially popular with kids because it involves showering colored powder and water on one another. Yes - showering one another with colored water! The lighting of a bonfire, singing and dancing, meeting friends, a feast of food and sweets are also part of Holi celebrations.
When is Holi celebrated?
The day when Holi is celebrated is set according to the traditional Hindu calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the calendar that we follow today, consisting of months from January to December. The Hindu calendar, on the other hand, is based on the movements of the moon. So...according to this, Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day of a month called “Phalguna”, and it usually falls in the months of February or March. The exact date differs each year, because when following the moon’s cycles, each month is 29.5 days and a year is 354 days - not 365 days like in the Gregorian calendar!
There are many intriguing stories around the celebrations of Holi - Let’s take a look!
The legend of Holika
One of the legends of Holi is about an evil king named Hiranya Kashipu who was granted special powers that made him indestructible. He became arrogant and commanded his kingdom to worship him. His son, Prahlad, however, refused to do so and instead worshipped his favorite God, Vishnu. This angered Hiranya Kashipu and he ordered his sister, named Holika, to sit on a bonfire pyre* with Prahlad. (You see, Holika had a special shawl that could protect her from fires). However, when the pyre was lit, Prahlad prayed to God and it was Prahlad that was protected, while Holika died. It was a victory of good over evil.
This legend led to the custom of burning a bonfire the night before Holi, to celebrate this victory of good over evil.
The arrival of spring:
The festival of Holi also signifies the end of winter and arrival of spring. Farmers celebrate the harvesting of the winter crop, and pray for a bountiful harvest in spring. The bonfire celebration has significance for farmers as it can help to renew the land so that crops can begin to grow again. The colors used to celebrate Holi also remind us of colorful spring flowers in bloom.
The legend of Krishna-Radha
Another story of this festival is about the famous God Krishna.(This one is also my favorite story). Krishna had dark skin, while his friend, Radha, had fair skin. When Krishna complained to his mother about this difference in skin color, she told him to put any color that he would like on Radha’s cheeks. This led to the playful throwing of color between Krishna, Radha, and Radha’s friends, called the “gopikas” or cow-herd girls.
Over time, the story led to the custom of showering colors on others as a symbol of friendship.
Some interesting facts about the colors of Holi:
Traditionally, colors are from dried flowers, roots, leaves and flour. After a spate* of using chemical colors that lowered costs, there is a new effort to go back to natural colors that are good for the environment and people’s health.
People like to wear light colored clothes when they play holi so they can show off a mixed palette of colors!
The apply color on friends’ cheeks as a welcome gesture and enjoy throwing colored water on them in jest.
Have you ever played Holi?