The importance of Holi in the Indian culture!

The most colourful festival of Bharat – HOLI – has a special place in every person’s heart, irrespective of religion, caste, sex or age. Colours of the rainbow seem nothing compared to the colours that people smear on each other on Holi. A riot of colours, a tint of madness, loads of happiness, buckets full of love and friendship, fistful of naughtiness, a tinge of shyness – all mixed together in the tapestry of my Motherland – and you have the perfect recipe for a vibrant civilization where acceptance of all emotions & all religions is the only way of life.

Holi is the festival of Spring & spring brings to mind the Indian Cupid couple – Kama and Rati. When the flowers blossom, the breezes are comfortably cool and shades of green, yellow and red take over the countryside, it is time for Kama and Rati to bask in the glory of Spring. Kama was given the impossible task of bringing Shiva out of His meditation and have stirrings of passion for Parvati. This was absolutely essential because only His progeny could be the cause of death of the mighty Tarakasur.

Kama succeeded in creating such an ambience that Shiva come out of His meditation and looked at Parvati, not as a just any Princess, but as one who was special. Disturbed, Shiva opened His third eye and burned Kama to ashes. Of course, later when Parvati managed to win over Shiva and they got married, Shiva forgave Kama. Thanks to Rati’s meditation and plea to restore Kama to life, Parvati (as Paramambika) requested Shiva to restore him to life. Shiva said that he would be reborn as Sri Krishna’s son Pradyumna, but on shedding his mortal coils, would be always present in the world as Spring, Love, Passion and Beauty (Ananga – one without a body).

In Soundarya Lahiri, Adi Shankaracharya praises Paramambika as being the only one who can help people resist the arrows of Kama. This is one of the stories of Holi. Bharat always respected the powers of Kama and one who rose above his temptations was always respected too.

One of the more popular stories is that of Bhakt Prahalad and his aunt Holika. Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu, had the boon that she would not be harmed by fire (Agni). So when Hiranyakashipu wanted to kill his own son Prahalad, for refusing to accept his father as the most powerful, Holika seated Prahalad on her laps and set fire to herself. The all-knowing Supreme One MahaVishnu protected His Bhakt, resulting in evil Holika being burnt herself. To remind people that in harming an innocent life, one only harms oneself, Holi is celebrated till today.

Holi is celebrated for 2 days. On the first day people light a bonfire; along with the symbolic gesture of destruction of evil, Puja to Agni, without whom mankind would have never been able to survive is also done. Traditionally a big log of wood would be kept in the open on Vasant Panchami day itself & people cover it with twigs, branches and dry wood. Cowdung cakes are put in the bonfire, people burn fresh sheaves of maize, wheat, barley or cakes made of their powder in the fire and popped corn, jalebis are distributed as Prasad.

People throw Gulal on each other and celebrate burning of enmity and addiction to sensual pleasures. Gulal is made from the Palash flowers which bloom in this season. The next day is the Dhuli Vandan or the Dhuleti. On this day, there is only happiness all around. People have shed their enmities and anger & are now ready to treat everyone as a friend. People smear colours on each other, embrace each other in a gesture of friendship and love, and celebrate Life. Jalebis, Gujiyas are the favourite sweets distributed along with glass loads of Thandai (milk with loads of cooling herbs). Children love this festival the most, as do young couples (you could call it the Indian Valentine’s Day). Sri Krishna too is said to have played Holi with the Gopikas, which lends more credence to this being the festival of Divine Love.

This is one festival which has people of all religions celebrating it, since it is the festival of celebrating love and friendships. People naturally blend in forgetting all their enmities and differences. Although some conservative Muslim sects refrain from playing with colours, in India even Mughal Emperors and other Islamic Kings have played Holi, as is proved from the many paintings of that era. Thus Bharatiya Muslims (even those who reside in Pakistan) have always played Holi with colours. (In fact, it is my personal opinion that ever since this fashion of telling people to stop playing Holi, flying kites, stop bursting crackers during Diwali and all such Hindu festivals, people of different religions have reduced intermingling. This is creating a rift between the people of different religions, since the public display of genuine brotherhood is going down. Cultural festivals have to survive if brotherhood and mutual respect has to survive.)

This year Holi is even more special since yesterday’s results showed that people of Hindustan are willing to forget their differences to take Bharat ahead and make it the best country in the World. So are you ready to celebrate a Kesariya Holi? Holi Hai !!!


*** Please use organic and natural colours.

*** Do not put colours on animals since they lick themselves to groom themselves and thus could fall ill.

*** Do not use gutter water or dirty water.

*** Do not force anybody to play against their will.

*** Do not think that Holi is an excuse to molest women.

*** Play well, but do not waste water.

Rati Hegde