Holi is around the corner and we are all armed with water guns, balloons, and bags full of gulaal or coloured powder. Delicious sweets and snacks are prepared and shared with friends and family, and music and dance fills the air, along with a shower of hues and the sounds of joy! But while this festival has been around for centuries, few of us know where it all began, and more importantly – why. We hope this would shed a little light on that.
As with a lot of age old festivals, Holi is shrouded by various stories dipped in mythology and intrigue, with regards to its origin. Here are a few:
- Triumph of good over evil – As the story goes; there once lived a King named Hiranyakashyap who wanted to be the ultimate figure of worship for all his subjects. To his disdain though, his own son Prahalad was a devout follow of Lord Vishnu. As a result, the King ordered his sister Holika to enter a bonfire with the prince in her lap. Here’s where it gets interesting – Holika had the power to enter a pyre without getting burnt. What she didn’t know was that it was only applicable if she entered alone. So when she jumped into the fire with Prahalad, she got burnt for her sinister crime, whereas the Lord saved the prince for his unfettered devotion. It is thus considered as a festival that celebrated the win of good over evil, as is marked by the lighting of a bonfire and cheering around it each year on Holi.
- Celebrating mischief and love – This version revolves around Lord Krishna and appearances. As we all know, Krishna was blue-skinned. It is believed that this was caused by the she-demon Putana who poisoning him with her milk. This had always bothered him, making him believe that Radha, the woman he loved, could never love him back due to her fairness. Exasperated, his mother suggested he dab her face with any colour, and if she stuck around, love won. Krishna did this to Radha and her gopis, and thus their love blossomed, and now we all celebrate it as the festival of love.
- Sacrifice for love – In yet another story centered around love, Parvati had called upon the god of love, Kama, to restore her relationship with Lord Shiva – who, in his meditative trance had ignored Parvati for days. In his effort to do so, Kama shot Shiva with love arrows, thus incurring the latter’s wrath, who went ahead and burnt him to ashes. When Kama’s wife Rati responded with penance of her own, Lord Shiva’s heart was softened and he was convinced by Parvati to bring Kama back to life.
- Modern Rituals – Today, we celebrate it to mark the end of winter and the start of the harvest season. It is a time to forgive and come together as a community. It is a time to rejoice, play, mingle, and spread colour. The celebration of Holi has come a long way, but the sentiment and love the people share for the festival has only grown with time.
So come together with friends and family, and have a joyous and responsible Holi, but never forget your roots amidst all the fun and frolic!