Holi Festival

Happy Holi! Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a spring festival celebrated mainly by Hindus, though I suspect that others often join in, especially the kids. What kid can resist such a joyous mess, after all?  The main day, Holi, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder (gulal) and squirting colored water at each other. Down in the plains, it’s today (March 8), but up here in the hills, it’s actually tomorrow.

My friends had doused everyone and everything with colored pink water using huge squirt guns. This friend was imploring me to come down and join the fun. Actually, I was quite enjoying the whole thing from the safety of the balcony, though I came down so they could put a little powdered gulal on my face.

Holi’s fun, but I confess that I’m just not that fond of getting squirted with color, especially if it is of the toxic and/or hard to remove from your clothing variety. Fortunately, there is some trend towards natural, herbal colors, which is encouraging. I do like the spiritual meaning behind it, of course, but the splashing of colors seems to dominate. Actually, since I live in a small village, Holi here is a pretty mild celebration. Those who are looking for a bit more action go to one of the bigger towns nearby.

This little boy, who is dressed as Sri Krishna, is all ready to throw some powdered gulal. Photo by JKP, Barsana Dham

Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). After doing holika dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlada accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Hiranyakashipu had tried many things to get rid of Prahlada, but each time Vishnu saved him. Holika had received a boon that she couldn’t be burnt by fire, but because Prahlada was a staunch devotee of Vishnu, he escaped without any injuries and Holika was burnt in spite of the boon. Anyway, it all signifies the triumph of good over evil.

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