Holi is a Hindu festival of colors, friendship and sharing love. It is a little different from Basant, though celebrated in spring which is around the same time period of the year. It is an ancient religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia. It is one of the oldest Hindu festivals, and probably started several centuries before the birth of Christ.
Mythological History of Holi:
There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is celebrated as a festival of colors. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika,” the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu, according to legend, was the King of Multan and had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. He grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu (a member of the Holy Trinity). This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika, Prahlada’s evil aunt, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada, who survived while Holika burned. Seeing this, Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashed a pillar with his mace. There was a tumultuous sound, and Lord Vishnu appeared as Lord Narasimha and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the pure fire that burned Holika. The next day, when the fire had cooled down, people applied ash to their foreheads – a practice still observed by some people. Eventually, colored powder came to be used to celebrate Holi.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire at important crossroads throughout the cities. People gather to perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed as the bonfire starts. The next morning is celebrated as a carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water. Anyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The fun with colors occurs in the streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place to sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw colored powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies. This festival symbolizes regeneration of friendship, renewal of relationship and encourages acts of forgiveness. Holi ushers in spring and symbolizes the arrival of spring in our hearts as well.
This year, the South Asian Students Association (SASA) celebrated the festival of Holi on April 16th on the Green at Clark University. There was a huge turnout of about a 100 people! There were a lot of colors, great music and lots of food. The event started with the President of the club, Tahmeed Chowdhury (Class of 2016) welcoming everyone and thanking the crowd for coming out. And then the fun began! The event lasted till 3:30, and everyone had a wonderful time. Check out the photos by Demet Senturk to get a glimpse of the event:
This festival truly brought out the spirit of spring! I hope you enjoyed knowing more about this colorful festival!