Colours are an integral part of one’s life, especially to break the monochromic aspect once in a while. What’s better than celebrating Holi, when you talk about colours. Holi is a colourful Hindu festival that celebrates love, spring and the victory of good over evil.

It is a two-day festival. The first evening of Holi begins on Full Moon Day (Holi Purnima as per the Hindu calendar) which is known as Holika Dahan or Choti Holi, when bonfires are lit to cleanse all evil. The second is known as Rangwali Holi or Dhulendi that includes playing with coloured powder and water. The ‘Festival of Colours’ has also attracted non-Hindus to celebrate the occasion.

This year, the ancient Hindu festival falls on March 18. You will be amazed to learn that the colourful festival is celebrated by Indians all over the globe, even in countries like Nepal and Malaysia. In Malaysia, you can find temples such as Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Kuala Lumpur’s Sentul area that host extravagant Holi festivals.

But why do we celebrate Holi and what are the rituals that are performed on this day? Read on to know more.

Significance of Holi

Hindu mythology

holi celebrations
Image Credit: Alena Darmel/ Pexels

Holi is associated with many legends or folktales focussing on Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap. There are many stories surrounding Lord Krishna and Radha as well.

Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap

As per Hindu scriptures, there was a prince called Prahlad who was an ardent believer of Lord Vishnu. This didn’t go down well with his father, the powerful and wicked Hiranyakashyap, because he wanted to be worshipped by everyone.

Hiranyakashyap’s sister Holika was blessed with a boon of staying unharmed in fire so he asked her to sit on fire with Prahlad in her lap as he wanted his son dead because he was angry with the fact that his son worshipped Lord Vishnu and not him.

While Prahlad was saved from this sinister act as he was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, Holika was burned to flames as a punishment for misusing her power.

This is how the tradition of Holika dahan or Holika bonfire started being practised to mark the beginning of this Hindu festival.

Later, Hiranyakashyap was left aghast with the incident and challenged his son to show if his God exists. When Prahlad affirmed the omnipresence of Lord Vishnu, the infuriated father broke down the pillar on which his son was sitting and was shocked to see a half-lion and half-human featured boar coming out of it.

Lord Vishnu took the form of this huge boar, called Narasimha, to rip Hiranyakashyap’s torso apart with his bare nails and kill the king at twilight.

Lord Krishna and Radha

radhe krishna
Image Credit: ISKCON-London/Facebook

Another legend that represents Holi is related to Lord Krishna, known for his characteristic blue skin colour, who was jealous of Radha’s fair complexion.

When he expressed his displeasure to his mother Yashoda, she asked him to go and colour Radha’s face to make her look like himself.

The naughty Krishna took great delight in applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank has become a part of the Holi festival since then.

Social significance of Holi

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Holi unites people and the infectious energy can make anyone forget any hard feelings for each other. People all over the country pay a visit to friends and relatives in the evening and exchange sweets and gifts. This helps strengthen the relationships and the secular fabric of a society or country.

Cultural significance of Holi

The legend of the demon king Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad signifies the power of truth and ultimate victory of good over evil. By following a good moral compass in their lives, people can lead their lives with integrity.

Holi is also considered as a spring festival as it is observed when the fields are ready for harvest, giving the hard-working farmers a reason to celebrate.

Other significances of Holi

Holi also promotes good health. Since the spring season can induce laziness or tardiness, going out with colours and music can help one feel rejuvenated.

In fact, when people circumambulate around the Holika bonfire as per Hindu traditions, the heat of the fire can purify the body and air by killing bacterias.

Additionally, people clean their houses to remove dust and clutter during the festival of colours which also makes them feel positive and optimistic.

How is Holi celebrated?

holi celebrations
Image Credit: Nishant Das/ Pexels

The celebration begins with lighting the sacred bonfire on the night before Dhulendi. People gather and pray for the safety of their near and dear ones. They also offer roasted grains, popcorn, coconut and chickpeas into the bonfire.

The next day people observe Holi by splashing water and smearing colours such gulal (powdered colour) on each other. Children and youngsters celebrate the colourful festival by playing with water guns and water balloons filled with plain or coloured water. People like to be dressed in white or old clothes and sway to popular Holi songs.

One of the most popular beverages consumed during Holi is thandai, a drink made of milk. Some people like to add Bhang, a type of cannabis, to their drink. People also relish a traditional and Holi-special sweet called Gujiya.

(Hero and Image Credit: Min An/ Pexels)

This story first appeared in Prestige Online Malaysia 

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Holi: Its History, Significance And How To Celebrate It
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