Holi

Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India.

Updated: June 16, 2020

Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India. It is celebrated in almost every part of the country. As on this day people get to unite together forgetting all resentments and all types of bad feeling towards each other, it is known as the 'festival of love'. It is a religious festival celebrated by Hindus all over the world. It is is a Hindu spring festival, originating from the Indian subcontinent. Holi got its name from the legend of Holika is celebrated for two days. The first day is known as Jalanewali Holi, the day when Holi bonfire is done. This day is also known as Chhoti Holi which literally means small Holi and Holika Dahan. Holika Dahan is referred to Kama Dahanam in South India. The second day is known as Rangwali Holi, the day when people play with colored powder and colored water.

Significance of Holi:

Holi is the time to forgive and forget old enmities. Holi is not only a social event but also it has its religious significance. The Phalguna Purnima day is the first day of Holi as per Hindu lunar calendar. The second day of Holi always follows the first day. The preparation of Holi begins eight days before of the first Holi day. This day is known as Holashtak and begins on Phalguna Ashtami during Shukla Paksha. Most temples in Mathura and Vrindavan organize Holi events during these eight days of Holashtak.

Holika Dahan:

Holika Dahan, which is also known as Holika Deepak or Chhoti Holi is done by worshipping Holika and burning it with woods while singing songs.

Holika Dahan is a community event which is performed at streets and roads junction when people burn Demoness Holika symbolically in huge bonfire. On the first day of Holashtak people choose the place of Holika Dahan. The chosen place is sanctified with holy water of Ganges and few dried woods are collected and placed on the sanctified spot. The ritual of collecting dried woods, which are fallen from trees naturally, continues for the next eight days. By the last day of Holashtak the spot has good amount of dried woods which is used to burn demoness Holika symbolically.

Story Behind Holi:

The most famous holi legend is Prahlada who was ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlada, the son of demon Hiranyakashipu and his wife Kayadhu, was born and brought up under guidance of sage Narada when Hiranyakashipu was busy in pleasing Lord Brahma to gain immortality. Hiranyakashipu was enemy of Lord Vishnu and he was highly against of his son being devotee of Lord Vishnu. When Prahlada refused to obey Hiranyakashipu, Hiranyakashipu asked his sister Holika, a lady demon, to kill Prahlada. As Holika had divine shawl, gifted by Lord Brahma to protect her from fire, she made a plan to kill Prahlada in a huge bonfire. As folklore goes when the fire was lit Prahlada started chanting the name of Lord Vishnu. When Lord Vishnu found his devotee in danger he summoned a gust of wind to blow the shawl off to Holika and on to his devotee Prahlada. Prahlada was unhurt due to grace of Lord Vishnu and divine shawl while demoness Holika was burned to ashes in huge bonfire.Therefore, Holi festival got its name from the legend of Holika and Holi bonfire is known as Holika Dahan.

Celebration:

The main Holi day is Rangwali Holi, also known as Dhulandi or Dhulendi. On first day bonfires are lit after sunset at Holika Dahan time. Next day in the morning after Holika Dahan or Holi bonfire, people play Holi with dry and wet colors. People are more willing and comfortable to play Holi with dry colored powders which are known as Gulal. However, more enthusiastic Holi folk play with wet color. They mix dry colored powder in full bucket of water to drench complete body in wet color.


Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire.
The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi that is a free-for-all festival of colours, where people smear each other with colors and drench each other. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also used to play and colour each other. The frolic and fight with colors occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw colored powders on each other, laugh and gossip, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. The vibrancy of colors present in this occasion brings in a lot of positivity in our lives. Holi being the festival of colors is actually a day to rejoice.
Holika Dahan is a community event which is performed at streets and roads junction when people burn Demoness Holika symbolically in huge bonfire. This process symbolizes the triumph of good over the bad. 


Many people avoid products which are made of chemicals as a result of public awareness on harmful effects of chemicals and their hazards on human life. Since Vedic time people were playing Holi with herbal colors. Most temples in Braj region use natural color to play Holi. Tesu is one of the most commonly used flowers to create natural color. Tesu is the Kesar color flower of Palash tree whose parts are used in various products and herbal medicines. Most importantly it is popularly known for its flowers which are used to extract yellow color during Holi.
It is believed that Lord Krishna used to play Holi with Tesu flowers and hence most Krishna temples in Mathura and Vrindavan use them to play Holi. Tesu flowers are soaked in warm water one day before of Holi. On the next day the concoction is used to play Holi. Usually, the rose water, Chandan, Kesar and scents are added to the concoction. 


The world famous Lathmar Holi at Mathura is played in Barsana which is remote satellite town of Mathura. Women folks try to protect themselves and symbolically beat men with wooden sticks to resist any attempt to smear them with wet and dried colors during Lathmar Holi. 
It is believed to be the most ancient way to play Holi started in the time of Lord Krishna. As per Hindu mythology Lord Krishna and His troop used to visit Barsana, the place that belongs to Radha to play Holi with Radha and Gopis. This tradition of playing Holi between both towns is still kept alive by these village folks. As per tradition Gulal, is sent to Nandgaon by people of Barsana as an invitation to visit and play Holi with the female folks of Barsana. The invitation is send on the first day of Holashtak and on the next day men folks of Nandgaon visit Barsana to play Lat.

Holi Safety Tips:

  • Play safe. The best option would be to play with natural home made colors. Ensure a better quality of colors if natural colors are not possible.
  • Make sure to apply enough cream before and after the play to your face.
  • Apply thick coating of paint on your nails, both in fingers and toes so that they remain protected.
  • Oil your hair well, so that color doesn't stick on your hair and can be washed off easily later.
  • Cover your hair. Make use of hat or caps to protect your hair.
  • Make sure that powder or any other product does not get inside your eyes. Use a sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Wear your worst clothes so that you don't have to wash it again.
  • Take a bath much later after the entire Holi celebration is over. Taking frequent baths, washing the face again and again, will ruin your skin. You will also lose hair, for too much shampoo has a drying effect.
  • If someone has applied permanent dyes on you, do not rub the face with soap immediately in order to get rid off it, especially when it is wet. Instead, use good quality cleansing milk for removal. It's better than using soap, which will dry up your skin.
  • Avoid playing with gulal if you are prone to skin allergies.

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