India Greets the Turn of Winter into Spring with an Enormous Display of Color
Holi or Dol Jatra, Basantotsav, is the annual Hindu festival of colors that is observed at the close of every winter season. It is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna which this year fell on March 17. Hindus as usual welcomed the turn of winter into spring with a gigantic display of color. The faithful throughout India and all over the world share prayer, special foodstuff, friendship, and large amounts of harmless naughtiness as they wet each other with colored water dyes. The yearly festival traces its beginnings to various Hindu legends linked with the triumph of good over evil.
The annual Holi celebration begins with much fanfare on the eve of the festival with prayers and bonfires, and then on the day itself, Hindus hurl colored powder and liquids at each other. A greeting uttered by most everyone at this celebration is “Happy Holi.” Celebrations can get quite rowdy in India as typical norms of behavior are relaxed at this time. Don’t be surprised if tinted water is dunked on you.
Bhang, a local intoxicating drink is typically consumed to loosen up inhibitions. Everyone is fair game during Holi as people from all walks of life and age get together and have fun during the festival. In addition to the energetic and rowdy nature of the festival, Holi is also a time for loved ones to reunite in gatherings, give and receive gifts, partake of delicious food and dress-up their houses. Holi is a much awaited celebration among Hindus.
Holi observes the miraculous tale of Prahlada, a youthful boy and a dedicated follower of the Hindu god Vishnu. As the story goes, Prahlada was the son of Hiranyakashipu, the king of demons. Not being able to accept Prahlada’s commitment to Lord Vishnu, Hiranyakashipu tried to murder his son many times by using poison, throwing him from great heights, and other ways that all failed.
Ultimately, he had Prahlada sit on a pyre on the lap of Holika, his demoness sister who was protected from fire. Prahlada did as his father commanded and survived unscathed by the fire while Holika perished. Holika’s demise was the inspiration to the custom of lighting bonfires on the eve of Holi. Holi also commemorates the timeless love of Radha and Krishna, the divine couple. Finally, Holi also celebrates the tale of Kama, the Hindu god of love, his burning by Lord Shiva, restitution and his love and sacrifice for all. These three stories are very popular in India and Hinduism.
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