Holi is the festival of colors heralding the dawn of spring. It falls on the Poornima of the Phalgun month. For the year 2023, it occurs on Tuesday, 7th March 2023 and Wednesday, 8th March 2023. This festival signifies victory of good over evil.
Holi – The legends
There are several legends making and marking the significance of Holi.
Hirayakasipu, the demon king ordained that only his name should be chanted. He did not recognize Sri Maha Vishnu as God. His son Prahalada was the devout Narayana Bhakt.
Hirayakasipu was annoyed and furious with his son for not accepting his dictate. He tried to do away with his son through several means. But every time Bhagwan Narayana saved Prahalada.
So, Hirnayakasipu asked his sister Holika who had a boon of being unscathed in a fire, to carry Prahlada in her lap and enter fire. He thought that Holika would re-emerge unscathed and Prahlada would perish.
However, both Hiranyakasipu and Holika were not aware that the said boon would work only when Holika enters the fire alone. When she entered the fire with Prahlada on her lap, the fire devoured her and Prahlada emerged unburnt due to the blessings of Sri Narayana. Hence Holi signifies the end of Holika, the evil minded.
When Sri Krishna was a baby, the demon Kamsa had sent the demoness Pootaki to feed poisonous milk to Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna had sucked out the life of Pootaki and she had died.
The night when Pootaki was killed is being celebrated as Holi and the effigy of Pootaki is burnt in the Holi bonfire.
Bhagwan Shiva and Parvathi
Bhagwan Shiva was insulted by his father-in-law Daksha. Bhagwan Shiva and Goddess Parvathi had a duel. At the end of it, Goddess Parvathi had burned her form. Bhagwan Shiva was left alone. Because of his forlornness, He did not concentrate on the protection of the universe.
This created chaos everywhere. Goddess Parvathi was doing penance to be re-united with Bhagwan. The other Devas had requested Manmadha, the God of love, to shoot an arrow on Bhagwan Shiva so that he can be kindled to get married again. They believed that only the union of Shiva and Parvathi could save the world.
Manmadha was reluctant and hesitant to do the job. He anyway shot the arrow on Bhagwan Shiva. Shiva had retaliated by burning down Manmadha. Later, Rathi, the wife of Manmadha had requested Bhagwan Shiva to revive her husband.
Bhagwan Shiva had done so and he also eventually re-married Parvathi.
He also offered the left portion of His body to Goddess Parvathi to signify His love and respect.
The day Bhagwan Shiva burnt down Manmadha is considered as Holi. People offer mangoes and sandal paste to Manmadha God on this day.
Sri Radha and Sri Krishna
Sri Krishna was a childhood friend of Sri Radha. As Sri Krishna was dark in complexion, he used to envy Sri Radha for her fair complexion.
As a child, as playfully told by Yasodha, Sri Krishna had applied colours on Sri Radha to make her look dark.
That day is marked as a festival of love named Holi and people smear colours on the loved ones by using hands and pichkaris (sprinklers).
There was a Demoness named Dhundhi in the kingdom of Raghu. She was harassing little children. Unfortunately, she had the boons to the effect that she would not be killed by God or humans or weapons. The elements of nature such as rain, heat, cold etc., would not harm her. These boons made her invincible.
However, the boon had an exception; She would die if the boys play prank on her. The King consulted the priest.
The priest suggested that a bon fire be lit on the full moon day and the boys be asked to shout, abuse and run around the fire.
This was done and eventually Dhundhi died. The day of bon fire is celebrated as Holi.
The celebrations are held for two days.
The first (previous) day is the day of lighting the bonfire. The lighting of bonfire is done after sunset. It is known as Holi ka dahan, Chotti Holi, Kamadahana, Kamana habba, etc.,
The next day is the main Holi festival. It is the festival of love as people forget all resentments and angers. They apply both wet and dry colors on each other and enjoy the festivities.
The other names for this festival are Vasantha Purnima, Dol Purnima, Dol Jatra, Holi Panduga, Dhulendi, Dhulivandan, Holi Hunnime, Kumanoi Holi, Rungwali Holi to name a few.
On the full moon day of Holi, people play with each other splashing colours. In the evening, they wear new dresses and seek the blessings of the elders and teachers.
Special dishes such as Thandai, Khoya, Dal Kachori and other delicacies are prepared and partaken with family and friends.
In all the places connected with Sri Krishna’s history and at all the places with Sri Krishna temples, Holi is celebrated grandly with songs, dances and bhajans.
In effect Holi signifies the end of dark days (winter) and onset of spring. It also signifies the beginnings for brighter life.
Holi – Bhai Dooj
This is the second day from Holi. For the year 2023, it occurs on Thursday, 9th March 2023. The festivities are similar to Raksha Bandhan.
On this day, married sisters invite their brothers home and provide them feast. The brothers in turn give gifts to their brothers.
The sisters do arti to their brothers and put a tilak on their forehead. They also do special prayers for the welfare of their brothers.
The festival is also called as Bhatru Dvitiya, Bhatri Ditya, Bhagini Hasta Bhojanamu and Bhai Tika to name a few.