Holi—the festival of colors in India—is one of those few rare times of the year during which the entire population surges with enormous vitality. Celebrated as a welcome gesture to coming spring, Holi is all about colors.
Holi is celebrated in early March, the beginning of the Indian spring, after the night of the full moon. India is one country where each region has a unique cultural tradition, so although the religious part of Holi is somewhat divers all over the country, the main theme of welcoming the colors of spring remains throughout. It is a time during which the people celebrate color by throwing powdered dyes at each other, bathing in colored water, and generally enjoying themselves by spreading the vibrant shades of spring.
The traditional Hindu legend behind Holi is about the demon king, Hiranyakashipu, who didn’t believe in God. His son, Prahlad, was a devout Hindu, and insisted on praying to Lord Vishnu despite his father’s adamant stand. Frustrated, the King decided to teach his son a lesson. He told his son that if his faith in God was so great, God would save Prahlad if he fell into trouble. Prahlad looked up with calm eyes, and accepted his father’s challenge.
Now, Hiranyakashipu was not merely testing his son—he meant to actually take a serious step towards knocking his faith aside. His sister, Holika, was a she-devil of prodigious strength and evil power. She also had a very special sari that could make her invulnerable to fire, so on her brother’s orders; she sat on a great pyre with Prahlad on her lap. With everyone’s eyes on what seemed to be the public execution of Lord Vishnu’s great disciple, the fire was lit. But Prahlad had his faith strong in his heart at all times, and in this time of need, Lord Vishnu heard the boy’s prayers. Prahlad was protected by the magic sari, while Holika was burnt to do away with her evil influence. Thus, every Holi, a great bonfire is lit, so all the old bad things can be burnt away to make way for the new life spring brings.
Thus, the festival of color has a two-fold ritual of renewal; the past is burnt away and the future is welcomed with the splashing of color and lighthearted water fights, all over the country of India.
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