Bura Na Mano! Holi Hai!!
The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renew sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other 'Happy Holi'.
Holi celebration begins with lighting up of bonfire on the Holi eve, which is one day before the actual Holi day. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub 'gulal' and 'abeer' on each others' faces and cheer up saying, "bura na maano Holi hai". Holi also gives a wonderful chance to send blessings and love to dear ones wrapped in a special Holi gift.
In some parts of India, especially in Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1533). However, the literal meaning of the word 'Holi' is 'burning'. There are various legends to explain the meaning of this word, most prominent of all is the legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyap. Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion.
Legend of Lord Krishna is also associated with play with colors as the Lord started the tradition of play with colors by applying color on his beloved Radha and other gopikas. Gradually, the play gained popularity with the people and became a tradition.
There are also a few other legends associated with the festival - like the legend of Shiva and Kaamadeva and those of Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana. All depict triumph of good over evil - lending a philosophy to the festival.
Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the legend depicts that anybody, howsoever strong, cannot harm a true devotee. And, those who dare torture a true devotee of god shall be reduced to ashes.
In some states of India, there is also a tradition to place the idols of Radha and Krishna in a decorated palanquin, which is then carried along the main streets of the city. All this while, devotees chant Krishna's name, sing devotional hymns and dance in the name of the lord.
In several states of India, especially in the north, effigies of Holika are burnt in the huge bonfires that are lit. Then everywhere one hears shouts of 'Holi-hai! Holi-hai!’
The tradition of burning 'Holika' is religiously followed in Gujarat and Orissa also. Here, people render their gratitude to Agni, the god of fire by offering gram and stalks from the harvest with all humility.
Further, on the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes. It is believed that by following this custom their homes will be rendered pure and their bodies will be free from disease. At several places there is also a tradition of cleaning homes, removing all dirty articles from around the house and burning them. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed and the sanitary condition of the locality is improved.
Rituals of Holi
Rituals of the ancient festival of Holi are religiously followed every year with care and enthusiasm. Days before the festival people start gathering wood for the lighting of the bonfire called Holika at the major crossroads of the city. This ensures that at the time of the actual celebration a huge pile of wood is collected.
Holika Dahan Celebrations
Today even children also hurl abuses at Holika and pray pranks, as if they still try to chase away Dhundhi who once troubled little ones in the Kingdom of Prithu.
Play of Colors
Next day is of course the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti and it is on this day that the actual play of colors take place. There is no tradition of holding puja and is meant for pure enjoyment. People take extreme delight in spraying color water on each other with pichkaris or pouring buckets and buckets of it. Singing Bollywood Holi numbers and dancing on the beat of dholak is also a part of the tradition. Amidst all this activity people relish gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other traditional Holi delicacies with great joy.
Drinks, especially thandai laced with bhang is also an intrinsic part of the Holi festivity. Bhang helps to further enhance the spirit of the occasion but if taken in excess it might dampen it also. So caution should be taken while consuming it.
Holi Celebrations in South India
In south India, however, people follow the tradition of worshiping Kaamadeva, the love god of Indian mythology. People have faith in the legend which speak about the great sacrifice of Kaamadeva when he shot his love arrow on Lord Shiva to break his meditation and evoke his interest in worldly affairs. After, an eventful and fun filled day people become a little sober in the evening and greet friends and relatives by visiting them and exchange sweets. Holi special get together are also organized by various cultural organizations to generate harmony and brotherhood in the society.
The Evening of Bonfires
Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire takes place on the eve of Holi. The day is also popularly called 'Chhoti Holi' or the 'Small Holi'. The bigger event - play with the color takes place on the next 'big' day. Holika Dahan is an extremely popular tradition and is celebrated with fervor all across the country and is symbolic of triumph of good over evil. There are numerous legends associated with this ancient tradition and it is difficult to pin-point as to when actually the tradition started.
A Brief History
Holikotsav finds a mention in the Vedas and Puranas. It is stated that during the Vedic period the sacred fire of Holi was burnt amidst the chanting of specific mantras which were intended for the destruction of the demonic forces. It is also said that on this very day Vaishwadev oblation commenced in which offerings of wheat, gram and oat were made to the sacrificial fire.
Some scholars believe that Holikotsav is named after fried cereals or parched grains called 'Holka' in Sanskrit. These parched grains were used to perform hawana (a fire ritual).The vibhuti (sacred ashes) obtained from this ritual was smeared on the forehead of those who participated in the ritual to keep away evil. This vibhuti is called Bhumi Hari. Till date there is a tradition of offering wheat and oat into the Holika fire.
It is because of this event, Holika (a bonfire) is burnt every year on Holi. The burning of the effigy of Holika is called Holika Dahan.
Metaphorically though, the fire is meant to signify the destruction of evil - the burning of the 'Holika' - a mythological character and the triumph of good as symbolized by Prahlad. However, the heat from the fire also depicts that winter is behind and the hot summer days are ahead. Next day after Holika Dahan is called Dhuleti, when play with colors actually takes place.
Celebrations in various parts of the world
USA : With a large population of Indians settled in the United States of America, Holi is celebrated with gaiety and lot of fanfare in this country. Different societies formed by the Indians and religious organizations help people to celebrate this joyous festival and feel close to their cultural roots. Music programs and Holi Meets are also organized by them to mark the occasion. These meets help the new generation to identify with their cultural root. Children learn to understand the significance of celebrating festivals and know legends associated with them.
Great enthusiasm for the festival can be specially witnessed in cities where large number of Indians have settled. Holi celebrations are particularly marked in the city of New York.
Here Holi parades are taken out. People can be seen having so much fun in these parades as they play with the color in the midst. There is so much revelry here that it becomes difficult to imagine that New York is not a part of India.
Bollywood actors also take time out to celebrate Holi with the people of USA doubling the excitement for the festival. Dance performance, fashion shows and music concerts further add to the festive spirit.
South Africa : Indians wherever they may be, takes immense delight in celebrating the festival of Holi and South Africa is no exception. The vibrant Gujarati's and other Indians settled in South Africa have made it a point to keep the tradition of celebrating Holi alive in the country. They play colors, light bonfires called Holika, sing Holi songs and make merry. The evenings are spent in meeting friends and relatives and exchanging greetings and sweets.
United Kingdom : Hindus settled in UK do not miss out the excitement of Holi celebrations and enjoy to the hilt. Zeal for the festival is particularly marked in this country as Indians constitute the second largest ethnic minority. Celebrating festivals help them to feel close to their families and cultural roots.
The celebration of Holi is noticeable at places that witness a large congregation of Indians. The British city of Leicester is particularly known for its love for celebrating Indian festivals. Excitement reaches its peak when the occasion is that of celebrating a joyous festival like Holi.
Children love to use their spray cans and color each other. Holi parades are also carried and in the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They hug each other and also apply the tilak as the meet Holi in a traditional manner.
Holi in the Muslim world
Holi, being celebrated across India March 21, may be the most colorful Hindu festival but it has a Muslim history as well. Sufi saints like Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and Amir Khusrau in their chaste Persian and Hindi loved the festival. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, whose Holi ‘phags’ (songs) are relished even today, allowed his Hindu ministers to tinge his forehead with ‘gulal’ during Holi festival each year.
During the Shahjahani tenure of Delhi, Holi was known as Eid-e-Gulabi (Pink Eid) or Aab-e-Pashi (Shower of Colorful Flowers), and truly so owing to its carnival spirit and hysterical rejoicing for both Hindus and Muslims. The nobles, kings and nawabs exchanged rose water bottles and sprinkled them on each other along with the frenzied drumming of the ‘nagaras’ (drums). This enlightened spirit percolated in the Mughals right from the time of the greatest Mughal emperor Akbar. Jahangir is shown holding Holi festivities in Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. Many artists, especially Govardhan and Rasik, have shown Jahangir playing Holi with Noorjahan, his wife. Mohammed Shah Rangila, in a remarkable painting, is shown running around the palace with his wife following him with a ‘pichkari’, or water cannon.
Such examples are umpteen in India’s cultural heritage; and this has been enriched by the harmonious amalgamation and assimilation of various faiths and ethnicities.
Mirza Sangi Baig in Sair-ul-Manazil narrates that the rollicking and frolicking Holi groups were alternately powdered and drenched till the floor had been covered with a swamp of crimson, yellow and orange color, with the faces being multi-colored, a spectacle very enthralling and exclusive.
Holi in Bollywood
Neha Dhupia: I will be celebrating Holi in Goa with my friends and family. This is the second time that I will be enjoying the festival at my house in Goa.
Sanjay Suri: I have always liked playing Holi, but this time it will be a close family affair because my son is very young. He is just about two years old and I don't want that he gets hurt in any way. So we will just use some dry colors this year - nothing more than that.
Divya Dutta: As of now I am shooting in Rajasthan. Holi here is a big festival and is celebrated with fervor. So for me, it will be Holi in Rajasthani style this year.
Purab Kohli: I am playing Holi at my friend's place with a few friends and then I have a flight to catch to Dubai in the afternoon. I believe in playing a safe Holi and only play with Gulaal and clean water.
Anjana Sukhani: I have a Holi appearance at the Country Club in Mumbai. From there I will head to the Zoom Holi party where the entire Jashn team will be. Jashn is my film with the Bhatts and will celebrate Holi with them and my family there.
Ronit Roy: I will be doing puja and then shooting throughout the day. I have to shoot if my audience need to be entertained. I have been doing this for the last eight years now, so it's like a routine.
Hiten Tejwani: If something nice is happening in my building, then we will celebrate Holi there. Otherwise we will be going to some friends' place. I prefer playing Holi with natural colors or Gulaal and not pucca (dark) colors because I am an actor and need to use colors that come off easily.
Sudha Chandran: I don't play Holi but it's a holiday and a welcome break for me which I will use to chill out. I don't generally get offs so this holiday will be good.
Panchi Bora: I am scared to play Holi but I believe in celebrating the festival with god. That's why I will do puja and apply some color just for the occasion.
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