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Holi 2014

Thursday, Mar 13 - 2014 | By Satabdee Subhadarshee Sahoo

Holi 2014 will start on Monday, the 17th of March and will continue for 2 days until Tuesday, the 18th of March. Holi is a festival also known as festival of colours, and sometimes festival of love. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities. 

It is primarily observed in India, Nepal and other regions of the world with significant populations of majority Hindus. The festival has, in recent times, spread in parts of Europe and North Americas as a spring celebration of love, frolic and colours. 

Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is free for all carnival of colours. where everyone plays, chases and colours each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. People move and visit family, friends and foes, first play with colours on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. In the evening, after having their water fight, people dress up, visit friends and family. It is a national holiday in our country, India. 

Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Full Moon. The festival date varies every year as per the Hindu Calender, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian Calender . The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter. 

Significance of HOLI:- 
There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is celebrated. The word "Holi" originates from "Holika", the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him. He felt that he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him. Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahalada was however disagreed with his father. He was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. This irritated Hiranyakashipu. This was because once his evil brother, took earth into the sea. When Vishnu saw this, he took the form of a turtle and saved earth and killed Hiranyakashyapu's brother. So he subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy because due to his true devotion to Vishnu, every time he was in danger, Vishnu would save him. When Hiranyakashyapu was failed in all his attempts, he asked help from his sister, Holika. Finally, Holika - Prahlada's evil aunt - tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloth that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned and Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared in the form of Narsingha (half lion and half human) and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi. 

Holi festival has other cultural significance. It is the festive day to end and rid oneself of past errors, end conflicts by meeting others, a day to forget and forgive. People pay or forgive debts, as well as deal anew with those in their lives. Holi also marks the start of spring, and for many the start of new year. There are many other legends behind the celebration of Holi like:- In Braj region of India, where grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi) in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna, a Hindu deity. The festivities officially usher in spring, with Holi celebrated as festival of love. There is a symbolic myth behind commemorating Krishna as well. Baby Krishna transitioned into his characteristic dark blue skin colour because a she demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. In his youth, Krishna despairs whether fair skinned Radha and other girls will like him because of his skin colour. His mother, tired of the desperation, asks him to approach Radha and colour her face in any colour he wanted. This he does, and Radha and Krishna became a couple. The playful colouring of the face of Radha has henceforth been commemorated as Holi. 

Description:- 
Holi is an important festival to Hindus. It is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), which usually falls in March, sometimes in late February. Holi is an ancient Hindu festival with its cultural rituals. It is mentioned in the Puranas, The celebration of Holi is also mentioned in the 7th-century Sanskrit drama, Ratnavali. The festival of Holi caught the fascination of European traders and British colonial staff by the 17th century. Various old editions of Oxford English Dictionary mention it, but with varying spellings. 

The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the spring. In 17th century literature, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture, commemorated good spring harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. Holi festivities mark the beginning of new year to many Hindus, as well as a justification to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and accumulated emotional impurities from past. It also has a religious purpose, symbolically signified by the legend of Holika. The night before Holi, bonfires are lit, known as Holika Dahan. People gather near fires, dance and sing. The next day, Holi is celebrated. Children and youth spray coloured powder solutions at each other, laugh and celebrate, while elders tend to smear dry coloured powder on each other's face. After playing with colours, and cleaning up, people bath, put on clean clothes, visit friends and family. Like Holika Dahan, Kama Dahanam is celebrated in some parts of India. The festival of colours is these parts is called Rangapanchami, and occurs on fifth day after full moon. 

Cultural rituals associated with Holi:- 
1) Prepare Holika pyre for bonfire 
Days before the festival people start gathering wood and combustible materials for the bonfire in parks, community centers, near temples and other open spaces. On top of the pyre is an effigy to signify Holika who tricked Prahalad into the fire. Inside homes, people stock up on colour pigments, food, party drinks and festive seasonal foods such as gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other regional delicacies. 

2) Holika dahan 
On the eve of Holi, typically at or after sunset, the pyre is lit, signifying Holika Dahan. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil. People sing and dance around the fire. 

3) Play with colours 
Holi's celebrations begin the morning after Holika bonfire. There is no tradition of holding prayers, and the day is for partying and pure enjoyment. Children and youth groups form armed with dry colours, coloured solution, means to fill and spray others with coloured solution, balloons that can hold coloured water, and other creative means to colour their targets. 

Traditionally, washable natural plant-derived colours such as turmeric neem kumkum etc. were used; but now water-based commercial pigments are increasingly used. All colours are used. Everyone in open areas such as streets and parks are game. Inside homes or at doorways though, only dry powder is used to smear each other's face. People throw colours, and get their targets completely coloured up. It is like a water fight, but where the water is coloured. People take delight in spraying coloured water on each other. By late morning, everyone looks like a canvas of colours. This is why Holi is given the name "Festival of Colours."Groups sing and dance, some playing drums. In south India, some worship and make offerings to Kaamadeva, the love god of Indian mythology, on Holi.After a day of play with colours, people clean up, wash and bathe, sober and dress up in the evening and greet friends and relatives by visiting them and exchange sweets. Holi is also a festival of forgiveness and new starts, which ritually aims to generate harmony in the society.
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