Holi The Festival of Colour
Traditionally Holi signals the end of winter and the start of Spring. Holi is regarded as a festival of colours. Holi is celebrated as the triumph of good over evil as the spring triumphs over the dark and dismal winter. In the many myths of the Holi festival the good wins over evil and the troubled spirit becomes resurgent like the freshness of spring, the soul gets rid of its negativity and is rejuvenated. This is the day to make a fresh start annually. It is also a good time for physical as well as spiritual regeneration.
Holi festival lasts for two days. On the full moon of Phalgun (after MahaShivaratri), the evil Holika is burnt symbolically in huge bonfires and the morning after is the celebration of colour known as Dhuleti.
People celebrate by colouring each other with gulal (red colour) and now many other bright colours which represent Spring, the joy of the victory of the good. It is a major celebration in north India.
Myth of Holi
There are many myths connected to Holi.
Hiranyakashyapu was a powerful king and he ordered his people to worship him as God. His son Prahlad refused his father's orders and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. The king wanted to kill Prahlada and wipe out the very name of Lord Vishnu. He sent his sister Holika, who possessed the boom of never being burnt by fire, to destroy Prahlada. The evil Holika sits with the boy Prahlad in a huge fire. Due to the blessings of Lord Vishnu, Prahlada emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi on the full Moon night as its symbolic representation of victory of good.
Lord Krishna, the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu is also worshipped during the Holi festival. Putana, a female demon was sent by the Kamsa to kill the child, Krishna. In the guise of a beautiful woman, Putana went about in Krishna’s village Nandgaon suckling every child to death. But when the infant Krishna sucked her breasts, blood started flowing and she died instead. The evening before Holi, bonfires are lit to celebrate the victory of Krishna and the death of Putana. Putana also represents winter and her death the end of winter.
Kamadeva, the god of love aimed his arrow Lord Shiva who was in deep meditation. Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt him to ashes. Kamadeva's wife Rati, beseeched Lord Shiva to restore her husband to life. Shiva relented and granted her the boon that she could see her husband but he would remain "anang" that meant without the physical human form.
by Komila Sutton
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