The Legends - Holi Festival
IN THE DAYS of yore, there were communities of cannibals living in India. They threatened the lives of many innocent people and created havoc in their lives. One of them was "Holika" or "Putana". She took immense delight in devouring children. Lord Krishna destroyed her and thus saved the little children. The effigy or figure of Holika is burnt in the fire up to this day. In South India, the figure of Cupid made of day is burnt. This is the origin of the great festival of Holi.
Another legend has it that once upon a time an old woman's grandchild was to be sacrificed to a female demon named Holika. A Sadhu advised her that abuse and foul language would subdue Holika. The old woman collected many children and made them abuse Holika with foul language. The demon fell dead on the ground. The children made a bonfire of her remaings.
Connected to this Holika - Legend is Bhakta Prahlad's devotion to Lord Narayana and his subsequent escape from death at the hands of Holika. Prahlad's father, Hiranyakashipu (also spelt as Hiranya Kashyap), punished him in a variety of rays to change his devotional mind and make him worldly-minded. He failed in all his attempts. At last he ordered his sister, Holika, who had a boon to remain unburnt even inside lire, to take Prahlad on her lap and enter into the blazing dames of the fire. Holika did so. She vanished, but Prahlad remained, laughing. He was not affected by the fire on account of the Grace of Lord Narayana.
Enactment Of The Legend This same scene is enacted every year to remind people that those who love God shall be saved and they that torture the devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes When Holika was burnt, people abused her and sang praises of the Lord and His great devotee, Prahlad. In imitation of that, people even today use abusive language, but unfortunately forget to sing the praise of the Lord and His devotee!
The Varied Celebrations of Holi
Holi commences about ten days before the full moon of the month, Phalgun (February-March), but is usually only observed for the last three or four days, terminating with the full moon. This is a spring festival of the Hindus. In the spring season all the trees are filled with sweet smelling flowers. They all proclaim the glory and everlasting beauty of God and inspire you with hope, joy and a new life and stir you on to find out the Creator and the Indweller, who is hiding Himself in these forms.
Holi is also known by the name of "Kamadahana" in South India, the day on which Kamadev (Cupid) was burnt by Lord Shiva.
In North India, on the eve of Holi, huge bundles of wood are gathered and burnt at night. On the festival day people play Holi joyfully with coloured water andeverywhere one hears the shouts of "Holi-hai! Holi-hai!"
People stand in the streets and pump coloured water over the body and clothes of any man who passes by, be a rich man or an officer. There is no restriction on this day. It is like the April Fool day of the Europeans. People compose and sing special Holi songs to mark the occassion.
During the festival, people clean their houses remove all dirty articles around the house and burn them. The disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed. The sanitary condition of the locality is improved. During the festival boys dance about in the streets and people play practical jokes with the passers-by.
Concluding Festivities - Holi in India
A bonfire is lit towards the end of the day as the closing ceremony of the festival. Games representing the frolics of the young Lord Krishna take place around the fire.On the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from this bonfire, to their houses. They believe that their houses are rendered pure and free from disease.
The Essence Of Holi
Festivals like the Holi have their own spiritual value. Apart from the various amusements, they create faith in God when properly observed. Hindu festivals always have a spiritual significance. They wean the man away from sensual pleasures and take him gradually to the spiritual path and divine communion. People perform 'havan' and offer the new grains that are harvested to the gods before using them.
There should be worship of God, religious gatherings and Kirtan of the Lord's Names on such occasions, not mere pumping of coloured water and lighting bonfires. These functions art to be considered sacred and spent in devotional prayers, visiting holy palace bathing in sacred waters, 'Satsang' with great evolved souls, doing charity to the poor, etc. Then only can Holi be said to have been properly celebrated. The devotees of the Lord remember & delightful pastimes of the Lord a such happy occasions.
Celebrating The Harvest Season - Holi Festival
All great Hindu festivals have religious, social and hygienic elements in them. Holi is no exception. Every season has a festival of its own. Holi is the great spring festival of India. Being an agricultural country India's two big festivals are at harvest time when the barns and granaries of our farmers are full and they have reason to enjoy & fruits of their hard labour. The harvest season is a festive season all over the world.
Man wants relaxation and change after hard work. He should be cheered up when he is depressed on account of work and anxieties. Festivals like these supply him with the real food and tonic to restore his cheer and peace of mind.
The religious element in the Holi festival is the worship of Krishna. In some places it is also called the Dol Yatra. The word 'dol' Literally means "a swing". An image of Krishna as a babe is Placed in a little swingcradle, and decorated with flowers and painted with coloured powders. The innocent frolics of little Krishna with the merry milkmaids ('Gopis') of Brindavan are commemorated. Religious people chant the name of Krishna and sing Holi-songs relating to the frolics of little Krishna with the Gopis.
The social element in Holi is the uniting or "embracing" of the great and the small, of the rich and the poor, and also amongst the equals. The festival teaches us to "let the dead bury the dead". Forget the outgoing years ill-feeling and begin the New Year with love, sympathy, co-operation and equality with all. Try to feel this oneness a unity with the Self also.
Holi also means "sacrifice". Burn all the impurities of the mind such as egoism vanity, lust, etc., through the fire of devotion and knowledge.. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity, selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Get up from the mire of stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of divinity.
The call of Holi is to keep always the blaze of God-love shining in your heart. Inner spiritual illumination is real Holi. The spring season is the manifestation of the Lord, according to the Bhagavad Gita. Holi is there said to be His heart.