The festival of Holi, also known as the festival of colours, is one of the most awaited and celebrated festivals for Hindus living anywhere in the world. The main highlight of this festival is how people smear colour on each other. But the festival also sees people getting drunk on ‘bhaang’ and dancing on various peppy Bollywood numbers.
The festival of colours is no more limited to just Hindus, it’s celebrated all over India with equal joy and passion by other communities as well. You can see people getting wild on this day all over the country and enjoying this day in different capacities.
What is the history of Holi?
The festival of Holi has also evolved with time and it was not used to be celebrated in the way you will see a celebration of Holi festival in the modern era. But do you know why do we celebrate Holi and how did it all start? The history of Holi dates back to even before the birth of Christ.
As per Hindu mythology, it all started when Lord Vishnu killed the younger brother of Hiranyakashipu, the demon king. Hiranyakashipu, who had been granted a boon of immortality by Brahma, decided to avenge Lord Vishnu. Drunk in power, he started killing innocents and doing other wrongful deeds with an ulterior motive of ruling the entire world. He ordered everyone in his state to worship him instead of any other God or Goddess. Prahlad, the son of Hiranyakashipu, who was a proud devotee of Lord Vishnu, however, continued worshipping Lord Vishnu.
An angry Hiranyakashipu conspired with his sister Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika was immune to fire. In order to kill Prahlad, Holika took Prahlad in her lap and sat on a pyre. As per the legends, Prahlad came out unscathed and Holika got burnt alive even after her immunity.
This victory of good over evil led to people celebrating Holi. Holika Dahan is also practiced every year on the eve of Holi by lighting up bonfires and praying it to burn away all the evil spirits.
How did celebrating Holi with colours start?
Can you imagine celebrating Holi without colours? Of course, not. Colours are an integral part of Holi. You will see different colours being used to play Holi. And, nowadays, there are also herbal Holi colours available in our online gift shop, which ensures your skin enjoys a harmless Holi. However, the earlier Holi celebrations did not involve colours.
As per legends, the notorious Lord Krishna used to tease Radha and her other gopis by smearing colour on them. This act by Lord Krishna has thence been used during Holi celebrations.
Different types of Holi in India
India is known for its diversity and like every other festival, Holi is also celebrated in many different names and ways in this country. Here is a list of some of the different types of Holi celebrations in India:
Lathmar Holi in Uttar Pradesh
Lathmar Holi is a completely different way of celebrating Holi. The Barsana and Nandgaon towns near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh are famous for its Lathmar Holi.
Thousand of natives and tourists participate in this amazing style of celebration which takes place just a few days prior to Holi.
If legends are to be believed, Lord Krishna had visited this village to meet Radha and her friends with an intention to tease them. The women in the village chased Krishna away with sticks in their hands. This gave birth to the now famous Lathmar Holi. Even today, the men of Nandgaon visit the village of Barsana every year on the festival of Holi and are greeted by sticks. A festival at the Radha Rani Temple is followed by men and women marching to the Rang Rangeeli Gali of Barsana. And the celebration starts with the gops (men) shielding themselves from the rally of sticks hurled on them by the gopis (women).
Basant Utsav and Dol Jatra in West Bengal
Basant Utsav and Dol Jatra are two of the popular types of holi celebrations in West Bengal. In Dol Jatra, devotees of Radha and Krishna organise pujas and bhajans. The traditional practices are followed by smearing colour powder on each other.
The Basant Utsav was started by the famous Late Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan, the university founded by him. The boys and girls here welcome the season with songs, dance and other creative acts. Not to mention, they also enjoy it by playing with colours.
Phakuwah in Assam
Holi is known as Phakuwah in the native language of Assam. This is a two-day celebration which starts with Holika Dahan followed by Phakuwah. The natives burn clay huts on a full moon night, a day prior to Holi, as part of their Holika Dahan ritual and celebrate the victory of good over evil.
The next is celebrated by playing with water and powdered colour. It also includes drama, dance, drinks and a lot of local delicacies.
Manjal Kuli in Kerala
The south Indians are not that known for celebrating Holi with the same wildness as compared to their northern counterparts. However, some communities in Kerala like the Gaud Sarawat Brahmins and other Konkani communities celebrate Holi by the name of Ukuli or Manjal Kuli.
These celebrations start on the full moon day in early March with devotees paying worship to the temples. The fest continues for a period of four days. An areca nut tree is cut down and carried to the shrine in some of the Kudumbi temples by the natives symbolising the victory of good over evil.
The mythology related to Holi is innumerous and so are the styles of celebrating it. I would not like to get into that debate now. Have a safe and joyous Holi!