Spring is coming to South Asia and Hindus in India and Nepal, along with thousands of visitors will be celebrating Holi, which is more often called the Festival of Colors, with the traditional releasing and throwing of different colored powder to the festival revelers. Falling on the last full moon of the year’s lunar month, Holi for 2019 in this part of the world is from March 20 to 21.
Holi, for the Hindus signifies the arrival of spring and therefore, new beginnings. What people, tourists and visitors to India and Nepal, and in Hindu communities around the world see and hear are the joy, merriment, fun, laughter and music and a myriad of colors to celebrate the event.
The festival is one of the most celebrated and revered events in India, where some people call it the festival of love because it’s a tradition to forget bad feelings and resentment towards other people. The festival’s first evening is called Choti Holi or Holika Dahan, while the next day is the time for Holi (Rangwali Holi) celebration. Rituals and prayers to remove evil are performed during Holika Dahan, with people sitting around bonfires.
The celebration of Holi is fun and exciting and if you want to join, you should be ready to be coated in colored powder and sprayed with colored liquid. But before that, you should also try bonfires in the evening prior to the colorful event. It is a significant night as well, as it commemorates the triumph of good over evil.
Legend of Holi
Hindus relate different versions of the origin of the Holi festival. Holi, a Hindu word, translates to burning, and several legends try to explain its meaning.
One legend relates the story of Hiranyakashyap who was considered a demon king. He wanted all the people in his kingdom to exclusively worship him. But he was disappointed that Prahlad, his son was a Lord Naarayana (Lord Vishnu) devotee. Prahlad had an aunt named Holika, who was said to be blessed against fire. The king ordered Holika to burn his son. Carrying her nephew with her, she sat on a blazing fire. But Prahlad was saved by divine intervention due to his devotion, while Holika burned. She forgot that her boon only protects her.
A few more legends are associated with the celebration of Holi, all pertaining to good winning over evil. Some of the legends involve Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana and Shiva and Kaamadeva.
The colored powders
Aside from the legends and spring’s arrival, Holi is believed to be a reenactment of the game Lord Krishna, a Hindu god and Radha, his consort played together with their milkmaids or gopis.
Typically, local festivals are surrounded by myths and legends, and India, which definitely has myths to spare, is no exception. You might be wondering why colored powders are thrown or smeared on people’s faces during Holi. It has a correlation with Lord Krishna, whose skin was dark or black, which is the meaning of “Krishna.” But the god is often depicted with bluish skin, which is said to be due to drinking milk poisoned by a devil when he was a baby.
The tradition of smearing colored powder is also based on a legend, telling the story of Lord Krishna’s mother using colored powder to change the color of his skin because he was always complaining about his skin being different from Radha’s complexion.
Today, colored powders are used to celebrate the event. The colored powder, called gulal (abeer) in Hindi, used to be made from flower and herb extracts, especially turmeric. But recently, synthetic powders have been used.
Four main colors are typically used for the powders, with meanings attached to each color.
- Blue represents the color of Lord Krishna.
- Yellow represents turmeric, which is used in many religious ceremonies.
- Green is the symbol for new beginnings and spring, which typically represents the season when plants start to bloom.
- Red is for fertility and love.
These colors have associations with Indian culture as well. Green is an auspicious color for married women. Widows in India do not wear green. Blue or indigo used to be extensively produced in India.
Turmeric or the yellow color is associated with the sun, luck and fertility. In Hindu weddings, the turmeric paste is applied to the face and body of the bride and groom to purify them. It is also to bless them with prosperity and fertility. Aside from the traditional significance, the scent of the turmeric helps them to relax and remove their nervousness. The dried rhizome is said to protect the wearer from evil. Turmeric is associated with Hindu religious ceremonies, as it is a symbol of inner pride and inner purity. In Buddhism, it is a symbol of generosity. Yellow is also associated with the merchants, which is the third class in India’s caste system. It is also a representation of Lord Vishnu as a weaver, who was said to have woven the sun’s rays for his personal clothing.
More colors are used today. Pink has become a dominant color during Holi. The color represents compassion and caring. Purple powder is also used, which represents mystery and magic. The various colors of Holi are a reflection of India’s diversity and its rich culture and traditions, which can be seen in its art, architecture, textiles, jewelry and more.
Beliefs associated with Holi
Holi is called the Festival of Colors because of the reasons mentioned above. The vibrant colors bring positivity in the lives of people, which mean celebrating Holi is a time to rejoice.
If you are participating in the celebration, prepare to be smeared and doused in colored power and water from water guns and water balloons. As usual, expect that some people may become a bit rough when painting people’s faces with colored pastes.
There are several beliefs associated with the celebration as well.
- Hindus believe that the legends associated with the celebration of Holi make them become more truthful and observe good conduct.
- Holi is socially significant, as it helps bring the Hindu and non-Hindu societies together. If you know the reasons why Holi is celebrated, you know that it is means making friends, not enemies. It also means having a positive outlook despite the hardship. The day means that there is no class differentiation. There is are no rich and poor people and everyone celebrates the day with the spirit of brotherhood.
Would you believe that Holi has a biological significance as well?
- Hindu astrologers calculate the celebration of the Holi accurately, based on the time sunset occurs and the location, particularly the exact time when to hold the Holika Dahan.
- Holi marks winter’s end, which is also a time when people feel lazy and sleepy. This is a natural occurrence because of the atmosphere changes from cold to hot. To counteract this feeling, people should speak loudly or sing loudly. Brisk movements and the loud sound help the body systems to rejuvenate.
- Biologists believe that the liquid dyes that enter the human body’s pores strengthen the body’s ions making the body healthier.
- Others believe that that the period between winter and spring is a time for bacterial growth. Burning the Holika increases the temperature in the surrounding area, killing the bacteria within the bodies of the people sitting around the bonfires. This means that the heat from the bonfires cleanses their body, making them healthier.
- In the southern part of India, people put ash on their forehead after Holika. They also consume a mixture of sandalpaste (Chandan) and the flowers and young leaves of the mango tree to give them good health.
- Some people believe that playing with colors is a way to boost good health. There are Western doctors who believe that a full complement of colors makes the body healthy and a body that is deficient in a specific color can lead to ailments.
Moreover, Holi is a time for cleaning their houses, effectively removing the mess and dust and getting rid of large and small pests. People living in a clean house typically have positive energies and generally feel good.
Around India and Nepal, and in many places around the world with large Indian communities, expect the day of the celebration of Holi filled with a myriad of colors. Be sure to wear clothes you do not mind being stained.
People will be throwing colored powder into the air, which will effective cover everyone within the vicinity. Some people will be carrying water guns and handheld water cannons filled with colored water, causing the powder to stick to wet skin and clothes. Children love throwing colored water-filled balloons.
You can purchase packs of colored powder from street vendors, if you feel like throwing colored powders yourselves.
When you join the celebration, you become one with everyone else. You will look like the other people joining the celebration. The color of your skin does not matter, because like everyone else, you will be covered in various colors. Religion, social class and economic status are forgotten during Holi.
Do keep in mind that the colors will probably stain and cannot be washed off clothes, so donning old clothes is recommended. Another thing to remember is that some of the colors will take time to be removed from skin and hair. To prevent this, rub oil on your skin and coat your hair with coconut oil. Protect your eyes with glasses or goggles.
If you are in India, remain safe. Do not go out alone. Do not drink too much and avoid areas where inebriated and intoxicated men congregate. It is recommended that you join the celebration early in the morning so you can be back to your hotel around noon.
Respecting cultural differences
Day Translations, Inc. understands cultural differences. It is one of the things that our native-speaking translators fully respect. As a language service provider, we make sure that we connect people from different cultures through accurate translation. We work with more than 100 languages and celebrate various events and festivals with our clients around the world. If you need translations into Hindi, we are here to help. You can contact us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us anytime at your convenience. Our translators are located around the world and we can connect you with a translator quickly. Day Translations is open 24/7, each day of the year.
To all our Hindu brothers and sisters, friends, colleagues and clients around the world, we wish you all the joy, merriment, fun, laughter, music and a myriad of colors.
Happy Holi, everyone.
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