Postgraduate Officer, Sid Singh, uncovers the legend behind the festival of Holi, talks about the celebrations that take place every year, and how you can join in too!
This year Holi will be observed on March 18, 2022 and is celebrated by Hindus all over. It is one of the biggest festivals on the Hindu calendar and is also known as the festival of colours. Last year, in 2021, Holi was observed on March 29.
History of Holi:
The Legend of Holika and Prahlad
There was once a demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who won over the Kingdom of Earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad, became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad, but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.
Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap as she took her seat in a blazing fire. Legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire with her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.
Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika, and is celebrated as a victory festival of good over evil.
Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the legend depicts that anybody, however strong, cannot harm a true devotee. And those who dare torture a true devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes.
Holi 2022: Significance
Holi also marks the arrival of the spring harvest season and the end of winter in the country. Holi is celebrated in the month of Phalguna of the Hindu calendar and the festivities start on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon Day).
On Holi, anyone and everyone is fair game; friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children, and elders, all take part in the smearing of colours, dancing, singing, and eating. People visit friends and family, share Holi delicacies, food, and drinks. On this day, some also indulge in customary drinks like bhang (made from cannabis), which is intoxicating.
Festival of colours: Rituals
Rituals of the ancient festival of Holi are religiously followed every year with care and enthusiasm.
Holika 2022: Preparations
Days before the festival, people start gathering wood for the lighting of the bonfire called Holika at the major crossroads of the city. This ensures that at the time of the actual celebration, a huge pile of wood is collected.
Then on the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. An effigy of Holika, the devil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap, is placed in the wood and burnt. For, Holika tried to kill Hiranyakashyap’s son Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil and the triumph of a true devotee.
Children also hurl abuse at Holika and play pranks, as if they’re still trying to chase away Dhundhi, who once troubled little ones in the Kingdom of Prithu. Some people also take embers from the fire to their homes to rekindle their own domestic fires.
The next day is of course the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti, and it’s on this day that the actual play of colours takes place. There is no tradition of holding puja, as it’s meant for pure enjoyment.
The tradition of playing colours is particularly rampant in north India and even in that region, there can be no comparison to the Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan.
In Maharashtra and Gujarat too, Holi is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and fun. People take extreme delight in spraying colour water on each other with “pichkaris” or pouring buckets and buckets of it. Singing Bollywood Holi numbers and dancing on the beat of dholak is also a part of the tradition.
Amidst all this activity, people relish gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other traditional delicacies with great joy. Drinks, especially “Thandai” laced with bhang is also an intrinsic part of the festivities. Bhang helps to further enhance the spirit of the occasion, but if taken in excess, may dampen it. So, caution should be taken whilst consuming it.
Celebrations at the Uni
Fancy celebrating Holi right here on campus? Come to our Holi Hai '22 event, hosted by the Bath Indian Society on the Lacrosse Field, on Saturday 19 March at 10:30.
More info can be found here.