Millions of people of Hindu community in Indian subcontinent celebrated the Holi, the carnival of colors, this year. This ancient popular festival is observed every year during the Indian winter’s transitions into pre-monsoon or summer season on the last full moon of the Hindu lunar month Phalguna.
On these days, the people of the community especially in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal engage in playing with colors with the hope of love, fertility and the triumph of good over evil. They dance, sing and fun. They do everything, even pray, with the colors.
On the evening of the first day, Holika Dahan, wood and dung pyres are burned to symbolize the triumph of good over evil. Families gather to roast grain, popcorn, coconuts and chick peas together.
The second day, known as Rangwali Holi, is the main carnival of color. Millions of people take to the streets to throw fistfuls of colored powder and soak each other with water guns.
Traditionally, people were doused with turmeric and flower extracts and smeared with sandalwood paste but these days synthetic powders and dyed water are common: locals recommend you moisturize beforehand so the powder is easy to remove.
The facts in the rear-end
It’s not clear exactly when Holi celebrations first began but they’re reportedly referenced in the Puranas, or ancient Indian texts, in the 4th-century poetry, and in the 7th-century play Ratnaval. This festival has no singular significance.
The idea behind the festival comes from the legend of Krishna and Radha. The supreme deity fell in love with the goddess Radha but was concerned about differences in their skin colour, his being blue. His mother advised him to playfully paint her face to overcome their differences. Lovers today continue the tradition by making sure their own faces match.
Holi also takes inspiration from Hindu Vedi scriptures in which Holika, a malevolent devil, was burned to death after her brother, the demon king Hiranyakashyap, ordered her to pass through the flames carrying his son (her nephew) Prahlada who had angered him by forsaking evil to become a devotee of Vishnu. The boy survived thanks to his faith while Holika was cremated. This is the significance of the ceremonial fires – which worshipers even run through in homage to the legend – that are staged to this day.