Holi: Celebration of Harmony
The Indian populace is can be distinguished by many factors – caste, region, social and economic statuses are only few of them. As a result, most of the Indian festivals have a specific reach, restricted to a region or two.
Though Holi is mainly a Hindu festival it has earned a mass appeal as it is celebrated on a single day across the length and breadth of the country and the entire Hindu community, as well as the other communities too come together to celebrate it. Holi is celebrated to spread the messages of harmony, unity and fraternity.
The underlying message of Holi is to forget and forgive rivalry and enmity and to embrace everyone with open arms.
Historical Significance of Holi
Mentions of the celebration can be found in several texts that are held sacred by Hindus. Most popularly it is associated with Lord Krishna. According to popular Hindu beliefs, the celebration of Holi on the onset of spring was introduced by Bhagawan Krishna who engaged the people of Braj to play with colored powder and water on the full moon day of Phalguna.
Another tale of Holi associates it with the burning of ‘Holika’, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. According to the popular legend, the king in order to kill his Prahlada, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, asked his sister to sit in a burning pyre with Prahlada on her lap. Holika had the blessing that no fire could ever burn her.
But things went wrong and it was Holika who got burned in the pyre and with the blessings of Vishnu, Prahlada emerged unharmed. Since then a pyre is made and burnt on the day before the celebration of Holi to signify burning of evil and welcoming good. The ritual is called ‘Holika Dahan’.
In South India the celebration is known as ‘Kama Dahanam’ to commemorate the burning of Kamdeva, God of love, by Lord Shiva. He was later restored by the Lord on request of Rati, the wife of Kamdeva.
Economic and social significance of Holi
Apart from being a religious festival Holi also has strong economic and social significances. Holi is celebrated to mark the ending of the winter season and the onset of spring. Since India is a predominantly agrarian economy, the onset of spring also means the beginning of the harvest season.
Holi is one of the oldest festivals of India. According to some sources, the word Holi was derived from ‘Hola’ which means offering oblation and prayer to the God. Devotees visit temples and show their gratitude to the deity for good harvest and pray for prosperity in the years to come.
The modern day celebration of Holi can be traced back to ancient Bengal. It was one of the major Gaudiya Vaishnav festivals as mentioned in the Vaishnaviya Tantra.
On this day people visit the Krishna temple and smear the idol with red abir (colored powder) as the color signifies good fortune, passion and desire. The celebration was popularized by the Vaishnavs to bring together the Hindu community which is otherwise divided by the caste system.
In that way Holi has been playing a great role in unifying the Hindu community of India. Everyone, irrespective of his social and economical status or religious orientation, participates in this magnanimous celebration of color.
Send colourful Holi cards to your friends and relatives.