When: Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Holi Festival always occurs in spring when the countryside is bathed in a riot of colours in any case. Matching the yellow-gold of mustard fields, the loud magenta of bougainvillea blooms and the blazing orange of the flame of the forest, Indians take on every colour available in this festival of the spring.
Date - Wednesday, 7th March 2013
Holi celebrations begin with 'Holika Dahan' which is burning Holika i.e. a heap of old things, sticks, leaves and branches. The bonfire symbolises victory of good over the evil.
Holi is a festival celebrating fun and freedom giving one the opportunity to enjoy life with colours revealing our crazy self, while not forgetting the festive spirit of love and respect.
Ammo for Holi includes water pistols, gulaal - coloured powder, coloured water - and the rest we leave to your imagination! Fortunately the bent these days is towards natural and eco friendly colours.
Children in particular enjoy by playing with gulaal, throwing water filled balloons and splash everybody with colourful water using their water gun 'Pichkari.'
The merriment continues with eating holi delicacies such as gujia, puran poli, malpuas and drinking bhang.
Why is Holi celebrated?
Myth and religion mingle with the urge to have a great time; and Holi is a celebration as much of the 'triumph of good over evil' as of the coming of spring and the passing of winter.
There are myriad legends related to Holi and Hindus all around the world relive these stories every year and bring to life the incidents which they believe occurred thousands of years ago. This faith in God and ancient traditions is what still binds Indians in a spirit of love and harmony. The very famous legend of Holi is of Holika and Prahlad. Its believed that there was a demon king named Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth and commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him. But his son, Prahlad, who was a passionate devotee of Lord Naarayana refused to worship his father.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved his life every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a burning fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika deceitfully persuaded young Prahlad to sit in her lap in the fire where she herself was burnt in the blistering heat as she was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her evil desire with her life and Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana in the fire, came out unharmed. Therefore Holi is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil and as the triumph of a devotee.
Even today in several north Indian states, effigies of Holika are burnt in huge bonfires. People take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes as they believe that the pure fire will help to free their bodies from disease. Likewise there are many other popular Holi legends like the love play of Radha Krishna, Invincible Dhundhi and Sacrifice of Kamadeva.
The festival is also believed to be a ritual of renewal; old relationships are pulled out of mothball preservation and aired in the sparkling sun.
As we know by now that the festival of Holi is celebrated all over India with great fervour but the most popular Holi is celebrated in well-known Braj bhoomi that include Mathura, Vrindavan, Gokul, Nandgaon, Phalen and Barsana. All these places have played a very important role in Hindu mythology, where Lord Krishna spent his childhood.
Visit these places during Holi festival and enjoy the enormously colourful ambiance. Devotional religious songs and people dipped in stunning colours make for a delightful spectacle.
Want to witness some unique Holi celebrations? Visit Phalen, Nandagao and Barsana where you will find a slight difference in the ways people at these places celebrate Holi.
In Phalen, a huge bonfire is lit on the full moon night to commemorate Prahlad-Holika episode, which is re-enacted here. The nail-biting fact is that the local priests of Phalen walk through the lighted fire during this occasion and come out unharmed!
If you are strong enough to enjoy being beaten up then visit Barsana and try a unique way of celebrating Holi.
This Holi is popularly known as 'lath maar holi' during which the men of Nandgao raid Barsana and seek to smear their victory over the temple of Radhika by placing their flag over it. On the other hand the women of Barsana try to stop these men in achieving their goal by beating them up with long bamboo sticks.
These men are not allowed to hit back women but can only try to keep them off by sprinkling colours on them or hitting them.
The fun part begins when any man gets trapped by these women. The trapped man is dressed up like a lady in a saree with makeup and is made to dance like one. It is said that even Lord Krishna was made to dance like a lady by Barsana women.
The very next day, the same scene is repeated in Nandgao as men of Barsana raid the village to win over temple of Shri Ji and women of Nandgao beat them with sticks to keep them off.
Tips for Holi Festival
- If you want to enjoy Holi to its fullest make sure to play safe. The best option would be to play with natural organic colours.
- Use more of red or pink colours that can also be taken off easily. Gaudy colours like purple, green etc may have more harmful chemicals in them and should be avoided.
- Make sure you oil your hair well before playing Holi so that the colour doesn’t stick on your hair and will be washed off quickly. You may also cover your hair with a cap or scarf to avoid any damage to your hair.
- Also apply thick cream on your face and thick coating of nail paint on your nails to keep them protected.
- If you heading to visit Nandgao or Barsana for ‘lath maar’ Holi then make sure you are well padded.
- Holi is famous for its traditional rich food like gujiyaas and chole bhature and drinks like bhaang and thandaai. Avoid over indulgence in bhang or food to enjoy the festivities to its fullest.
- In case the attempt to save your face from a colour attack fails, make sure to keep your eyes and lips tightly shut.