INDIA: Holi is India’s most vivid, and joyous festival. This colourful and liveliest festival is observed in India, Nepal, and other countries with large Hindu populations such as Suriname, Mauritius, Bangladesh, and the Fiji Islands. It is one of those Hindu festivals, that is celebrated by people from all castes and religions.
Holi is celebrated according to the Hindu lunar calendar. In 2021, Holika Dahan is on March 28, and Dhulendi (playing with colours) is on March 29. The festival begins with Holika Dahan on the night of the full moon (Purnima) in March each year. The main day of Holi is simply a day for having fun, and no religious rituals are performed on the day of Dhulendi.
It is interesting though to learn about different mythological stories about the origin of Holi. Each legend has its own significance and contribution to the festival, as on the basis of each of these legends several customs have arisen and are practiced to date.
Legend of good harvests
In ancient times, Holi was a spring festival that commemorated good harvests and marked the onset of spring. The colours of spring spread happiness all around people celebrating it as a festival of spring and bidding farewell to winter. The festival, Holi represents the colour and pleasant vibrancy of spring.
Just like various other festivals, there are several legends dating back to centuries associated with Holi.
Legend of Holika Dahan
Holi commemorates the victory of good over evil, particularly the burning and destruction of evil spirit Holika. Death of Holika is mentioned in the Narada Purana. During Holika Dahan, large bonfires are lit to mark occasion, and a special puja (worship ritual) is performed. People sing and dance around the fire, and walk around it three times.
Legend of Radha and Krishna
Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colours” from the childhood frolics of Lord Krishna. Since Lord Krishna had a dark body tone, he always wondered why his companion, Radha was very fair. His mother, Yashoda, playfully suggested that he could smear colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion changes. And, a young and naughty Krishna played a prank by throwing colours at Radha and gopis or the cowgirls at his hometown of Vrindavan and made Holi a community event that everyone regardless of religion participated in.
Legend of Kamadeva
Lord Shiva married his beloved Sati, against the wishes of her father, Daksha Prajapati. Daksha Prajapati broke all relations with his daughter and stopped inviting her for any function. Sati thought that her father had forgotten the past, and went to attend a grand Yagya her father had arranged for, though Shiva advised her not to. As expected, Daksha Prajapati insulted her and Lord Shiva. Sati realised her mistake and as self-punishment for what she had done burnt herself to death. On the news of the death of his wife, Lord Shiva was infuriated and renounced everything.
Sati was reborn as Parvati and she tried hard to win Shiva’s heart. But Shiva was in deep meditation and all her efforts went in vain. She appealed to Kamadeva, the Indian cupid-god, who, in response, shot a love-arrow into Shiva’s heart which disturbed his trance and woke him. An angered Shiva opened his third eye and destroyed Kamadeva. Later, Shiva understood his mistake and blessed Kamadeva with a second life and immortality. The sacrifice of Kamadev is celebrated as Holi.