Hindu Communities Celebrated Holi Festival

Millions of people throughout India, Nepal and Bangladesh celebrated Holi, a spectacular religious festival which kicked off on March 11th. Let’s review the history and traditions behind this widely popular event and how Holi is celebrated in India and around the world.

Meanings and Traditions

Although Holi dates back to centuries before Christ, the event has considerably changed throughout history to become the Festival of Colors that is known today. Holi has many purposes. First, it celebrates agriculture and a good harvest season. It announces the arrival of spring and its colorful blooms. Similar to Thanksgiving in the U.S., it is also an opportunity to forgive, end conflicts and make amends for past errors. 

More traditionally, the festival is a symbolic celebration of the victory of good over evil as told in the Hindu legend of Holika. This legend tells the story of Prahlada, son of evil King Hiranyakashipu', and fervent follower of Hindu god Vishnu. Prahlada disagreed with his father’s evil and immoral beliefs. This infuriated the King who severely punished his son. These cruel punishments, however, did not affect Prahlada who continued to fight for what he thought was right. Finally, his evil aunt, Holika, tried to tick him in a fire but her trick turned against her as she was burnt to death while Prahlada lived. To fully defeat the evil, the god Vishnu transformed in a half-human half-lion shape and killed the evil King with his lion’s claws. 

The eve of Holi, communities gather for Holika Dahan, a large bone fire representing the victory of good over evil and the burning of Prahlada’s evil aunt, Holika. People usually pray, sing and dance around the fire late into the night.

A Joyful Splash of Colors

The well-known Festival of Colors begins the morning after the bonfire. Imagine a giant water fight, with colored-water and pigments instead. People of all ages take over the streets with all sorts of creative methods to color their targets and party until the end of the day. In a few hours, festival-goers look very much like a painter’s palette. 

This tradition of throwing colored-powder comes from the legend of Hindu deity Krishna, whose skin became dark blue after he drank poisoned milk as a baby. Growing up, Krishna was worried he wouldn't find love because of his skin color. Following his mother’s advice, he colored the face of the woman he loved, Radha, and they became a couple. 

Holi around the World 

In recent years, the festivities have spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia and other Southeast Asian countries. While it primarily remains a religious festival for the Hindu communities around the world who gather at local temples, with family and friends, Holi is influencing a lot of social events such as music festivals, colored-theme marathons and parties.
Posted: 3/17/2017 8:59:56 AM