Holi, the festival of colors is the most fun-filled festival of the Hindus. It’s an occasion that brings with it lots of joy and fun, music and dance and of course lots of colors. This festival is celebrated in the Hindu month of Phalgun which usually falls in February/March and is not restricted to India but is celebrated the world over, wherever there are Hindus. It is celebrated with different traditions in India itself and similar trends exist with Hindus in other parts of the world.
Legend has it that Holi derived its name from Holika, the sister of the ancient king Hiranyakashipu. Her story demonstrates how a sinner got burnt in the fires of her own sin. This evil king had proclaimed himself to be God and even his own son Prahalad, who was still a little boy, did not accept his father to be a God. The king tried desperately to destroy the little boy and having failed miserably, resorted to his sister Holika for her help.
Holika had powers that allowed her to be immune from destruction by fire.
The evil king ordered Holika to take Prahalad into a huge fire so that he can be killed. Prahalad’s faith in the real God was such that Holika’s powers were reduced to naught and as such, she was burnt to death whilst Prahalad came out unhurt. It is because of this event, that Holika (a bonfire) is burnt yearly to usher in Holi. The burning of the effigy of Holika is called Holika Dahan.
In the days of Emperor Raghu, there was a Rakshasi (demoness) called Dhundhi. When she saw children alone and unattended, she would hide herself and jump out unexpectedly and scare them. Acting on the advice of his high priest, Emperor Raghu distributed pieces of wood amongst all the children of the kingdom. The children were instructed to make lots of noise and to shout very loudly. This Dhundhi could not stand the loud noises and she eventually left and ran away. This happened on the same day that Holika was burnt.
It is also said that Lord Shiva (the Lord of auspiciousness) destroyed Kaam Dev (the Lord of love) on the day Holika was burnt. Kaam Dev is worshiped in South India for the sacrifice he made. His worship is performed with the offering of mango leaves and flowers along with sandalwood paste. Appropriate songs are sung to mark the occasion.
Another legend associated with Holi relates to Krishna and Radha. It is believed that his mother advised him to apply color to Radha to make her of the same complexion as Krishna Himself. Krishna resorted to using a device sort of like a water gun called a pichkari which grew in popularity and acceptance. This tradition is very popular today and is rampantly used by lovers or boys and girls who enjoy the fun of teasing each other with the spray of beautiful colors, during the celebration of this fun-filled festival of Holi.