Holi – Festival of Colors
Holi is held in early spring at the full moon of Phalgun. The festival is connected with the legend of Hiranyakashipu (H) and his son Prahlada. H, a devotee of Siva obtained from the Lord, the sovereignty of the three worlds for a million years. He persecuted his son because he was a devoted worshipper of Vishnu. Angry with his son H started torturing his son with the help of his sister Holika. Many attempts on Prahlada’s life failed. Eventually entered a pillar of heated iron and tore H to pieces. Then Holika tried to burn herself with Prahlada. While she died in the fire, Prahlada was left unscathed. The fire is supposed to be burnt in commeoration of this tragedy.
The legend has been localized at a place called Deokali in the district of Jhansi where H is said to have had his palace. Another legend identifies Holi with the witch Pootana, who attempted to destroy the infant Krishna under the orders of Kamsa by offering the child her poisoned nipples to suck. A story at Hardwar says – Holika or Holi was, they say, the sister of Sambat or Sanvat, the Hindu years. Once Sambat died and Holi in excessive love for her brother insisted on being burnt on his pyre and by her devotion he was restored to life. The Holi fire is now burnt every year to commemorate the tragedy.
Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemmoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centres around an arrogant king who resents his son Prahlada worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlada emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.
This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation. Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.
Why do we throw colors?
In the North Holi indicates a change of season from the winter to spring. The fire is probably indicate the burning of the old year and the birth of the new year. People pray for the prosperities of their families, villages etc. The observance could be also to scare away evil spirits which are supposed to bring famine and diseases. The dancing, screaming, throwing of red powder is doe to keep the evil spirits away. Promptly at noon, the craziness comes to an end and everyone heads to either the river or the bathtub, then inside to relax the day away and partake of candies. In the afternoon an exhausted and contented silence falls over India.
Although Holi is observed all over the north, it's celebrated with special joy and zest at Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandgaon, and Barsnar. These towns once housed the divine Krishna.
Each area celebrates Holi differently; the Bhil tribesmen of western Madhya Pradesh, who've retained many of their pre- Hindu customs, celebrate holi in a unique way. In rural Maharashtra State, where the festival is known as Rangapanchami it is celebrated with dancing and singing. In the towns of Rajasthan — especially in Jaisalmer — the music plays, while the color of pink, green, and turquoise powder fill the air. The grounds of Jaisalmer Mandir Palace are turned into chaos, with dances, folk songs, and colored-powder confusion.