Holi, the festival of colours, is one of the most important Hindu festivals and marks the beginning of Spring. It starts on the evening of the Purnima(Full Moon Day), in the month of Phalguna, which corresponds to the February-March of the Gregorian calendar. The evening of the Purnima is celebrated as Holika Dahan or Choti Holi and the following day is celebrated as Holi or Dhulandi.
This year, Holika Dahan falls on 1st March(Thursday) and Holi on the 2nd of March(Friday).
Festivals mostly have some significance attached to it.
Holi, one of the oldest Hindu festivals, also has a number of significance attached, which can be divided as:Mythological Significance, Cultural Significance and Social Significance.
There are a number of mythological stories associated with the festival of Holi. The most popular is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap.
Hiranyakashyap was a powerful demon king who wanted to be worshipped by all. But his own son, Prahlad, was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Enraged by this, he tried to kill Prahlad by different means but could not succeed. Frustrated, he asked his sister ‘Holika'(who had a cloak which prevented her from being burnt in fire), to trick Prahlad into entering a bonfire with her. Prahlad willingly entered the bonfire with ‘Holika'. And such was the grace of God on Prahlad that the cloak slipped from ‘Holika’s' shoulder onto Prahlad’s. Thus, ‘Holika' got burnt to death while Prahlad came out unscathed.
The ‘Holika' bonfire that is lit on Holika Dahan is the symbolic victory of good over evil.
Legend of Krishna
Lord Krishna, as a baby, had turned blue when he was fed poisoned milk by the she-demon, ‘Putna'. When Krishna grew up and saw that he was the odd one out with blue skin, he would keep pestering his mother, Yashoda, about it. His lady love, Radha, was so fair. “Would she love him with this colour?”He would ask. Tired of his questions, one day, his mother, asked him to colour Radha any colour he wanted.
Krishna happily did so and since then on this day, which marks the day of Holi, people colour others’ faces as a gesture of love. People also worship and then smear the deities of Radha and Krishna with colours.
The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad reassure the people of the victory of good over evil. It lays stress on the importance of devotion to God and of following a virtuous life.
This is also the time when the fields are in full bloom and the farmers come together to rejoice in anticipation of celebrating a good harvest. Thus, this festival is also called ‘Vasant Mahotsav’.
Holi, as a festival, has rich social significance as it helps to strengthen the secular fabric of our country. The festival brings together people from different religions and socio-economic background. Enmity of any kind is put aside on this day and everyone hugs each other while applying colours. Holi, is thus a day to forgive and forget animosity.
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