HOLI (also known as the festival of colors) is a spring festival in India and Nepal. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia. It is a two day festival which starts on the Full Moon Day falling somewhere between end of February and Mid of March (Month of Phalgun as per Hindu Calendar). The first day is known as Holika Dahan while the second day is known as Rangwali Holi, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Bonfire where people gather, sing, dance and party. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free for all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry color powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns (also known as Pichkari) and colored water-filled balloons for their water fight. The frolic and fight with colors is being played in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. People visit family and friends to throw colors on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. Some of the Indian delicacies are Gujjiya, Thandai, Dahi Bhalle, Kanji ke Vade, Bhang and Bhang ke Pakore (intoxicating) and many more.
There is a symbolic legend in Hindu Texts (Vishnu Puran) to explain why Holi is celebrated as a festival of colors. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. The festival itself is believed to have origins from the Prahlada-Puri Temple of Multan in the Punjab region.
King Hiranyakashipu, according to legend, was the King of Multan and had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. He grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu (One of the three Principle Gods of HinduTrinity). This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Seeing this, Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashed a pillar with his mace. There was a tumultuous sound, and Lord Vishnu appeared as Lord Narasimha (Half man half lion and one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu)and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the fire that burned Holika.The next day when the fire cooled down, people applied ash to their foreheads, a practice still observed by some people. Eventually, coloured powder came to be used to celebrate Holi.
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