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What does Holi mean for Indians?

Cool breeze in the morning, a riot of colours in the garden, birds singing in ecstasy. Yes, that signals the arrival of the spring season or ritu Vasant in India. We welcome this celebration of nature in the form of the colourful festival of Holi. Holi means a farewell to chilly winters. This festival falls in the month of March every year according to the Gregorian calendar. As per the Hindu calendar, it falls on a full moon day in the month of Phagun. Holi signifies a feeling of friendship, brotherhood, reunion and sense of revelry. Holi is a harvest festival besides being a spring festival. It marks the harvesting of winter crop (Rabi) when wheat corns get ripened and turn golden brown. Farmers celebrate Holi by offering their first crop to the Fire God Agni.

The Legends behind Holi

In North India, this festival is associated with the story of Prahlad and Holika. The word Holi is derived from the name Holika. Holika was the sister of Hirankashyap, the demon king of the Asuras. He fancied himself to be the Supreme Being. Naturally, he ordered his people to worship him. However, the demon king's son was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. As son Prahlad did not obey him, Hirankashyap asked sister Holika to sit on a burning pyre with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon that provided her protection against fire. But as luck would have it, Prahlad walked out of the pyre unharmed, while Holika was burnt.

Another myth associated with the Holi festival in North India is about Lord Krishna. The cruel king Kamsa had sent demoness Putana to kill Krishna in Nandgaon. However, Krishna, even though a child, outsmarted her. Therefore, Holi signifies the victory of Lord Krishna over the evil forces. From that day, on the eve of Holi, people light a bonfire celebrating the victory of Lord Krishna. In Mathura and Vrindawan (Uttar Pradesh), places famous for Krishna's raslila (love-play), Holi is celebrated with songs, music and dances.

In Kerala and Tamilnadu, the festival of Holi is associated with the legend of Kamdev, the Love-god. Kamdev, in a fit of foolishness, aimed his arrow at Lord Shiva, in order to wake the latter from his deep meditation. Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt him to ashes. The grief-stricken wife of Kamdev, Rati begged for restoration of her husband. Lord Shiva granted her a boon whereby she could see her husband, but not in the physical human form.

Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima is the name by which Holi is known in Bengal. People fast and pray on this day. When all the traditional rituals are over, Krishna's idol is smeared with gulal and bhog is offered to both Lord Krishna and Agnidevta.

In Maharashtra, Holi is commonly known by the name of Rangpanchami. On one Holi day, a five-year-old Jijabhai, splashed gulal on young Shahaji. As history tells us, Jijabai was later married to Shahaji and the couple produced the visionary king Shivaji, the valiant Maratha ruler.

Also read:  Dos and Don'ts of Holi
                Holi Recipes
                Herbal Holi

Send:          Holi E-cards

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