“Festival of Colors” – HOLI 2013, How did you celebrate?


HoliThe Holi Celebration has its celebratory origins in Gujarat, particularly with dance, food, music, and colored powder to offer a spring parallel of Navratri, Gujarat’s Hindu festival celebrated in the fall.

The Krishna Connection
Holi is also associated with the Divine Dance known as Raaslila staged by Lord Krishna for the benefit of his devotees of Vrindavan commonly known as Gopis.

Radha-Krishna Legend
Holi is also celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Lord Krishna and Radha. The young Krishna would complain to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change. In the legends of Krishna as a youth he is depicted playing all sorts of pranks with the gopis or cowgirls. One prank was to throw colored powder all over them. So at Holi, images of Krishna and his consort Radha are often carried through the streets. Holi is celebrated with eclat in the villages around Mathura, the birth-place of Krishna.

Making the Colors of Holi
The colors of Holi, called ‘gulal’, in the medieval times were made at home, from the flowers of the ‘tesu’ or ‘palash’ tree, also called ‘the flame of the forest’. These flowers, bright red or deep orange in color, were collected from the forest and spread out on mats, to dry in the sun, and then ground to fine dust. The powder when mixed with water made a beautiful saffron-red dye. This pigment and also ‘aabir’, made from natural colored talc, which were extensively used as Holi colors, are good for the skin, unlike the chemical colors of our days.

Falling on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, Holi is a major Hindu festival and marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop.

A bonfire is lit in the main squares of the villages and colonies.

People gather around the bonfire and celebrate the event with singing and dancing, which is symbolic of the victory of good over evil.

Tribals of Gujarat celebrate Holi with great enthusiasm and also dance around the fire.

In Western India, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by making human pyramids. The girls try to stop them by throwing colored water on them to commemorate the pranks of Krishna and cowherd boys to steal butter and ‘gopis‘ while trying to stop the girls. The boy who finally manages to break the pot is crowned the Holi King. Afterwards, the men, who are now very colorful men, go out in a large procession to “alert” people of the Krishna’s possible appearance to steal butter from their homes.

In some places, there is a custom in the undivided Hindu families that the women of the families beat their brother-in-law with her sari rolled up into a rope in a mock rage as they try to drench them with colours, and in turn, the brothers-in-law bring sweetmeats to her in the evening. READ MORE – WIKIPEDIA

Holi_Bonfire_UdaipurOn the first day of this festival, Hindus participate in a public bonfire. Before the event, men prepare for this by collecting extra wood.

The fire itself is lit near midnight, as the moon rises. The main custom of Holi is the use of the colored powders and water on others. This is why Holi is given the name “Festival of Colors.”

Holi fire in front of Jagdish Temple in Udaipur, Rajasthan, 2010

Ritual time

Dharma Sindhu and Nirnaya Sindhu, Sanskrit texts of festive rituals and dharma shastras says morning of holi should be spent joyfully by playing with cows and calves; Holika dahan should be performed after evening.

Having constructed a platform hallowed with ‘Go Maya’ (cow dung) one should arrange a stack of sticks with Agni and perform Holika Puja with the ‘Sankalpa’ and ‘Aavaahana’ of “Sakutumbasya mama Dhundhaa Rakshasi preetyartham tatpeedaa parihaa –raartham Holikaa pujanam karishye/ —Asmaadbhirbhayasantrastaih krutaatwam Holikeyatah, Atastwaam Pujayishyaami bhutabhuti pradaabhava!” (As were afraid of you Holika Devi! We seek your compassion and thus are resorting to shodashopachaaraas to you. Do kindly show us fearlessness and prosperity!)

The mantras addressing Holika Devi state that the ten days from Panchami and Purnima are quite propitious and during these days even stealing of ‘Indhana’ or fire-wood ignored to celebrate Holi fire on the Purnima Day when throwing of water, smearing on other’s faces with colours and using of indecent language etc., are ignored as gestures of friendship especially with neighbors and friendship circles; there would be group singing, dances and extravaganza of merriment all through the day and night. This is how the Raakshasi Holika would be satisfied.

Next morning, a Chandaala is touched before taking bath and after carrying out nitya karmaas, Holika Devi be greeted and take up one’s own duties so that the year ahead would be devoid of diseases, difficulties and mental problems.

Celebrating here a poem recited by one of our very own, Meetika Srivastava’s father: Mahesh Prasad Shyam Radhey sang Holi Madhusudan Ki Aahatan… listen to the AV please —

Sanskrit dramas

The earliest textual reference to the celebration of Holi is found in the 7th century Sanskrit drama, Ratnavali.

Certainly there are perennial rituals attached to Holi: the first is smearing of colored powder on each other and throwing colored and scented water at each time.


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