First of all Happy Holi. Last night when I and Ramya were discussing about holi we just tried to remember if we know anything about Holi. The conclusion was never did not know anything about the legends and rituals attached to it. So I went ahead and read on the net for what holi actually means and why it is celebrated. I would confidently say that 90% of my friends would not know any of this. So I thought I shall collectively post all the myths and legends about this festival in my blog.
Holi, the festival of colours, has many interesting legends and rituals attached to it. The mythological origins vary in different parts of the country, but the variety only gives one more reason to enjoy the festival!
Legends and Mythology
Legend 1 :
In Vaishnava theology, Hiranyakaship was the king of demons, and had received the boon of immortality from Lord Brahma. As his power and arrogance grew, he began objecting to people’s belief in the divine power and demanded that they worship him instead. However, Hiranyakaship’s son Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. When he failed to destroy his son’s beliefs despite placing him in near fatal situations, he ordered young Prahlad to sit on a pyre in his sister Holika’s lap. Holika was blessed with a shawl, which would prevent the fire from harming her.
Prahlad happily followed his father’s orders and prayed to the lord to save him. As the flames grew, to the spectators’ amazement, the shawl flew from Holika to Prahlad. From that day on, the burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
Legend 2 :
In Vrindavan and Mathura, Holi is celebrated in memory of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. It is believed that when Lord Krishna was young, he often whined about his dark complexion and wondered why Radha was so fair. One day, his mother Yashoda playfully suggested that he can smear colour on Radha’s face and change her complexion to any colour he wanted. Fascinated by the idea, Krishna proceeded to do so and thus, introduced the festival of colours.
Lord Krishna is believed to have popularised the festival by playing pranks on the gopis . The holi of Braj is famous all over India for its intimate connection with the divine deities and their love plays. Mythology also states that Holi is a celebration of the end of ogress Pootana, who tried to kill infant Krishna by feeding him poisonous milk.
Legend 3 :
Another Holi legend, which is popular in Southern India, revolves around Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva (God of lust). Kama’s body was reduced to ashes by the force of an angry Shiva’s third eye, when he shot a flower-draped arrow at him to disrupt his penance. On the tearful requests of Kama’s wife Rati, the lord restored him, but only as a mental image, representing true love rather than physical lust. The Holi bonfire is believed to be celebrate this event.
Legend 4 :
Also popular is the fable of ogress Dhundhi who devoured innocent children in the kingdom of Raghu. She was ultimately chased away by the children’s pranks on Holi. This is the reason that young boys are allowed to indulge in rowdiness on Holi.
Rituals of Holi
Fire or water? The emphasis is on ‘ Holika dahan’ or lighting up of Holi on the eve of Holi. The origin of the Holi bonfire is attributed to the burning of demonesses like Holika and Putana . In places like Bihar and UP, ‘ Holika dahan’ is also known as ‘Samvatsar Dahan’ . The concept of Samvatsar New Year varies in different provinces of our country.
The name says it all. Thandai is part and parcel of Holi celebrations. This refreshing and healthy drink is to be served amid the play of colours. In fact, Bhang thandai is used to set the mood for the festival of colours. Drinking thandai in this season also goes with the weather, as it acts as a coolant for people in North India, where the temperature is usually high at this time.
Vital ingredient: Bhang
There are no two ways about it — Bhang has become the official Holi drink. Culled from the leaves and buds of cannabis, the intoxicating bhang escalates the spirit of Holi. Lip-smacking bhang thandai , bhang pakoras and bhang vadas are some popular snacks people look forward to on Holi. The tradition of bhang on Holi is particularly popular in North India where Holi itself is celebrated with a zest not witnessed elsewhere.
Holi melas are grand affairs and an ideal way for people who want to spend Holi in a different and more colourful way. Apart from being a source of entertainment, these fairs play a significant role in bringing people together. Colour is the main theme of any Holi fair. Everywhere, one can see aromatic colours kept in thalis or gunny bags. Even shopkeepers are seen with painted faces and hands to create the perfect aura.
Splashing coloured water, smearing friends with gulal (coloured powder) and tossing water balloons on each other, playing with colours will be the order of the morning and any offence caused to anyone is washed away.
The beautiful, intricate patterns made from coloured rice powder or sand are considered auspicious. Traditionally, rangoli is made by unmarried girls of the family.
Say it in style!
Tray-loads of sweets and colours are distributed to near and dear ones. Blessings are exchanged and gulal is used to anoint the feet of elders or the forehead of a younger person. Other gifts, such as puja thalis, pichkaries (long metallic syringes used to splash water), packets of colour, chocolates can also be gifted.