Thursday, February 25, 2010

Holi “Festival of Colours”

Holi or “festival of colours” is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), (Phalgun Purnima). Holi Purnima (Phalgun Purnima) is also known as Madan Purnima or Vasant Purnima or Holika Poornima or Dol Poornima. Holi festivities start on Basant Panchami which marks the onset of Vasant rithu (Spring season). Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colors.

This is the spring festival of the Hindus. People light bonfires on the eve of Holi festival to celebrate the victory of 'good' over 'bad' which is called Holika Dahan. Holika Dahan is referred to as Kama Dahanam in Andhra Pradesh. In West Bengal of India and Bangladesh it is known as Dolyatra (Doul Jatra) or Basanta-Utsab ("spring festival").

Dhulandi Holi is celebrated on March 20 2011 (Sunday). Holika Dahan is celebrated a day before on March 19, 2011 (Saturday).

Meaning of Holi
Literally "Holi" signifies "burning" in Indian language. But, how it came to be associated with 'burning', is a story. The reference is found only in ancient Indian mythology. Holi also means “sacrifice”. Burn all the impurities of the mind, such as egoism, vanity and lust, through the fire of devotion and knowledge. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity, selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Rise from the mire of stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of divinity.

Celebrations of Holika Dahan – the Holy Bonfire: The day before Holi is celebrated as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). This ritual, setting a holy bonfire indicates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee. People consider the bonfire as very sacred and they take the fire as well as the ash of the holy bonfire to their homes. They believe that the holy ash may bring success, prosperity and bliss in their families. Some people do perform Holika Dahan after consulting the Panchang (Hindu Almanac) – to find the auspicious time to perform the Dahan.

Celebrations of Holi – Playing with Colours: The main day, Holi, also known as Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other. In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna).

Origin of Holi

We all celebrate Holi but hardly anyone knows the reason behind its celebration and origin. Originally Holi is a Spring festival. It celebrates good harvests and fertility of the land. There are many legends and history associated with the origin of this spring festival.

Legend of Prahlad, Holika, and Hrinyakashyapa : There was a demon-king named Hiranyakashipu who was very cruel and ordered everybody to worship him and not God. He was against Lord Vishnu. However, his little son Prahlad refused to do so and continued to worship the almighty Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God. He tried hard to kill him but every time Lord Vishnu saved him. One of the sisters of the king named Holika had a boon to remain unscathed by fire, so she followed her brother's wishes. However, with this sinful act against Lord Narayana's devotee, Holika's boon ended and she was burnt to ashes, while Prahlad came out safe. From that day onwards Holi is celebrated as the festival of the victory of good over evil. Even today, bonfires are lit on the night before Holi in memory of the event and burning of the evil Holika. It symbolizes the victory of Good over evil. The tradition of burning Holika or the 'Holika dahan' comes mainly from this legend.

Legend of Krishna and Putna : IN DAYS of yore, there were communities of cannibals in India. They caused much havoc. They threatened the lives of many innocent people. One of them was Holika or Putana. She took immense delight in devouring children. Sri Krishna destroyed her and thus saved the little children.

Legend of Kamadahanam : Holi is known by the name of Kamadahana in South India, the day on which Cupid was burnt by Lord Siva. After Goddess Sati’s death, Lord Shiva was in deep meditation without caring the universe. All the Gods were in trouble because they can’t do anything without Shiva’s association. At that time, Kamadeva, also known as Manmatha, has taken the responsibility of bringing Lord Shiva into active stage. Kamadeva shot an arrow of love at Lord Shiva and Shiva opened his third eye and destroyed Manmatha into ashes. Knowing this Manmatha’s wife Rathi felt depresses and worshipped Lord Shiva to regain her husband. This is known as Kamadahanam and since then Kamadahanam is observed during Holi festival.

Story of Radha and Krishna : Another legend, which tells us the use of colors in Holi is that of Lord Krishna and Radha. Lord Krishna use to play with colors with Radha and Gopis.This lovable prank of throwing colored powder and watercolors called 'pichkaris' soon gained favor with the people and it evolved into the tradition of Holi. This is the reason that people play with colors in Holi and at the same time they worship Lord Krishna and Radha. The Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan region, are very famous because it the place where Krishna was born and spend his childhood days.

This same scene is enacted every year to remind people that those who love God shall be saved, and they that torture the devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes.

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