According to the legend of Holi, a king named Hiranyakashyap wanted people from his kingdom to worship him. But his son Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Narayan. This made the king angry and he ordered his sister Holika to go into a raging fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a blessing that allowed her to enter fires without getting burnt, but what the king did not know was that the blessing would not work if she entered the fire with someone else. Holika was thus burnt to death while Prahlad was saved.
Another legend says that it was Lord Krishna who started the tradition of playing with colours by applying colours on Radha and the other gopis. Holi also has a great biological significance. The festival arrives at a time when people feel lazy due to the changing climate. It is believed that Holi helps the body get back into action with the singing, dancing and merry-making that is part of the festival. Also, the gulal that is applied is said to be very high in free ion components and makes people healthier. Lastly, the changing climate aids the growth of bacteria in the body. This is countered by the bonfires that are lit to celebrate Holi, which burn at high temperatures and kill the bacteria in and around the area.
In South India, people put vibhuti (ash) on their forehead and mix chandan (sandal paste) with young leaves and flowers of the mango tree and consume it to promote good health. Rabindranath Tagore was so inspired by the spirit of Holi that he decided to introduce Basant Utsab, the festival of spring, at Viswabharati University in Santiniketan near Kolkata, where students wear yellow outfits and celebrate Holi with cultural programmes. After the programme, the students of the university play Holi with abeer - a coloured powder prepared especially for Holi.
THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS
Few countries have such an amazing range of festivals as India has! India, with its many interesting and enjoyable rituals and festivals, can easily be the most colourful of countries. But the one festival that really stands apart in terms of its celebrations is Holi. As soon as one utters the word Holi, it reminds us of colours. Holi is all about having fun with colours. In actuality, this festival signifies the advent of spring, thus the celebration with colours. It's also about the immortal love of Lord Krishna and Radha. This two-day festival is celebrated by burning Holi bonfires on day one and the celebration with colours, sweets and food takes place on day two. On the night of the first day, Holi bonfires are lit using residual dried leaves and twigs from winter. The burning of the fire signifies the destruction of evil. The heat from the fire is also a reminder that winter has gone and the hot days of summer are fast approaching. On the second day, people drench each other with coloured water and coloured powder and dance to music. They share sweets with each other and enjoy the festivities. The display of colour symbolises the advent of a colourful and prosperous spring. People visit homes, distribute sweets and apply colours on each other, signifying colourful times and happy times ahead. People also have thandai, a drink made from milk. It is a festival when people from all castes come together and have fun.
THE WORLD CELEBRATES!
Holi is also known as the festival of colours. This Hindu festival is celebrated by other religions which have originated from Hinduism like Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. The Holi festival is celebrated all over India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Java, USA, UK, Surinam, Guyana and many other countries where a large Indian population has migrated. In many ways, Holi is a symbol of India as it reflects our love for communal gatherings, colours, history, celebrations and religion.
THE SAD PART ABOUT HOLI
During this festival, people act funny with women and try to touch them. They also throw eggs and mud on each other. Chemical colours go into people's eyes, mouth and ears and these can affect the body as the colours are of a bad quality. Water balloons hurt people and can cause fractures too. We suggest that you use herbal colours and not chemical colours. There should be police around such that boys don't harm girls and tease them. The use of water balloons, eggs and mud should also be banned.
FOODS SERVED DURING HOLI
Puran Poli: Rotis stuffed with a sweet mixture of lentils and jaggery.
Papri: A fried chickpea snack containing methi (fenugreek) leaves and served with green coriander chutney.
Dahi Bhalle: Fried dumplings made of chickpeas, which are eaten with coriander and tamarind chutney and curd.
Malpua: A sweet dish made of flour and served with rabri or sweet thickened milk.
Kesar (saffron) Milk: This is a popular flavoured drink that is served during Holi.
Thandai: This is a cold drink made of poppy seeds, aniseeds, black peppercorns and rose petals mixed with milk, ghee, spices and often bhang.
Kanji Ke Vade: These are dumplings made of urad ki dal (white split beans) that are soaked in water flavoured with rai (fenugreek seeds).
Bhang: Associated with Lord Shiva, bhang has now become synonymous with Holi. Out of several ways of preparing bhang, the most popular method uses the buds and leaves of the cannabis plant. The buds and leaves are ground into a green paste. Milk, ghee and spices are added to this paste and the bhang base is thus turned into thandai.