Holi is a traditional Hindu festival, originating in India, that dates back into the 4th century.
The timing of Holi is synchronized with the moon, so the dates vary each year, in accordance with lunar cycles.
It is a two day festival; the first day is known as Holika Dahan and the second day is known as Rangwali Holi. This year, Rangwali Holi takes place today, March 13th, while the pyres of Holika Dahan were burned yesterday.
Holika Dahan is set up the night before the big day. People gather for a purification ritual where a pyre of logs and dung-cakes are burned, representing the victory of good over evil. During this time, families gather to roast popcorn, coconuts, and chick peas together.
Rangwali Holi is the main event, and perhaps the one you’ve likely seen pictures of. Festival-goers throw handfuls of gulal (fine colored powder, historically made from turmeric, paste, and flower extracts) and spray water.
Gulal thrown during the festival comes from the legend of Krishna, whose skin was dark blue. He was worried that he wouldn’t be accepted by his love Radha, so he mischievously colored her face to make her more like him. Lovers today continue the tradition by matching their own faces when gulal begins to be thrown.
The four main powder colors are used to represent different things: red reflects love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow is the color of turmeric, and green symbolizes spring and new beginnings. You can learn how to make your own gulal here.
Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, fertility, and love and it marks the end of winter. It also, most interestingly to me, celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
The different celebrations of Holi derive from the various Hindu legends. I perused several websites and found several stories. One in particular stuck out from Hindu Vedi scriptures.
Holika, a malevolent devil, was burned to death after her brother, the demon king Hiranyakashyap, ordered her to pass through the flames carrying his son (her nephew) Prahlada. Prahlada had angered his father and turned away from evil, becoming a devotee of Vishnu. The boy survived, thanks to his faith, while Holika was cremated–a punishment for her evil intent.
There are many ways in which Holi is celebrated. Different states, different cities, and different villages have unique and innovative styles of celebrating Holi.
Do you celebrate Holi? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear how you celebrate, your favorite part of the celebration, or anything you’d love to share!