Holi is the festival of Colours which is celebrated by Hindus in various parts of the country. Holi is celebrated in various other countries like Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, United Kingdom, wherever Hindu population is present. The festival is celebrated with vibrancy and vigour. It is celebrated on full moon day of lunar month of Phalguna, according to the Hindu calendar. It generally falls in the month of February/March according to modern calendar. The festival has a religious origin but there are no rituals followed while celebrating Holi. However, bon fire is lit up in several parts of the country on the eve of the festival. This is known as Holika Dehan or Dulhendi. There is a mythological story behind the holika dehan.
Prahlad was the son of King Hiranyakashyapa and was an ardent follower of lord Vishnu. But his father didn’t like his son’s devotion towards Vishnu and created several plots to kill Prahlad. But his all efforts proved futile. Then Hiranyakashyapa’s sister, Holika offered to help him in killing Prahlad. She had a natural gift of being resistant to the flames of fire. She took Prahlad in her lap and sat in the fire. But the result astonished everyone. Holika was burnt alive and Prahlad came out without any injury mark or burn. The moral of the story depicts that truth and faith is always powerful. And the good always wins over the evil.
Another reference of the holi festival comes in a Hindu scripture, ‘Ratnavali’, written in 7AD. This depicts that holi was celebrated in historic times also. In northern part of India, the festival is related with the celebrations of Radha and Krishna, along with their playmates called as ‘Gopiyan’. The festival is started days before the holi date in various regions of Uttar Pradesh, which is thought to be the abode of Krishna and Radha. Huge myriads of holi are evident in the celebrations. Holi is palyed with colours, flowers, water and sticks (Latth-maar) on different days. There is a ritual of colouring the deity first and later the people share the colours and sweets with each other.
In West Bengal, the festival is celebrated in a different manner and called as Basant Mahotsav. Bengalis celebrate the commencement of spring. In northern India also it signifies the adieu to winters and a transition to the new blooming season of spring. It is also related with agriculture, as most of the crops are harvested and stored by this time, it gives the folk an additional reason to celebrate. In Punjab, the festival is celebrated as holla mohalla. Similarly there are other local versions of festival in Bihar, Orissa etc.
Holi is the most expressive and effervescent festival. People exchange colours in the form of gulaal and abeer and distribute sweets. Squirting water over each other personifies the joy and mirth. This festival also dilutes all boundaries of class, creed or gender. After getting their faces painted by myriad colours and splashes of water, it becomes hard to differentiate the class and cast. Hence it also signifies the equality of being human.