Holi is a major festival in the Hindu religion. It is celebrated on the day after the last full moon of the Hindu month of Phalguna. Phalguna falls between late February and early March in Western calendars. Holi usually marks the happy transition from harsh, dark winter to brighter, warmer springtime. Holi festival may be celebrated with various names and people of different states might be following different traditions. But, what makes Holi so unique and special is the spirit of it which remains the same throughout the country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated.
The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, also Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). After doing holika dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. Holika Dahan is referred to as Kama Dahanam in South India.
In most areas, Holi lasts about two days. One of Holi’s biggest customs is the loosening strictness of social structures, which normally include age, gender, status, and caste. Holi closes the wide gaps between social classes and brings Hindus together. Together, the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence on this joyous day. Additionally, Holi lowers (but does not remove completely) the strictness of social norms. No one expects polite behavior; as a result, the atmosphere is filled with excitement,fun and joy.
Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating many events that are present in Hindu mythology. Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.
Entire country wears a festive look when it is time for Holi celebration. Market places get abuzz with activity as frenzied shoppers start making preparations for the festival. Heaps of various hues of gulal and abeer can be seen on the roadside days before the festival. Pichkaris in innovative and modern design too come up every year to lure the children who wish to collect them as Holi memorabilia and of course, to drench everybody in the town.
Great excitement can be seen in people on the next day when it is actually the time for the play of colours. Shops and offices remain closed for the day and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colours of gulal and abeer fill the air and people take turns in pouring colour water over each other. Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons and passers by. Women and senior citizen form groups called tolis and move in colonies – applying colours and exchanging greetings. Songs, dance on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies are the other highlights of the day.
There is also a tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this day to further enhance the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display. Some, however, take bhang in excess and spoil the spirit. Caution should therefore be taken while consuming bhang delicacies.
After a funfilled and exciting day, the evenings the spent in sobriety when people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings. It is said the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society and even the enemies turn friend on this day. People of all communities and even religions participate in this joyous and colouful festival and strenthen the secular fabric of the nation.