There is probably no other nation in the world who celebrates holidays with such a great fanfare like the Indians do! Each month in India is associated with some important religious event, custom or tradition. There is Krishnaadzmashtami and Ganeshatatrthi in September. Then Navrati in October and Diwali in November, the biggest fete for all Hindu people. In March there is also Holi festival of colours! And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
In some parts of India also Christian holidays are widely celebrated, and in other parts – all holidays of Islam. All it’s because Hinduism as a polytheistic religion allows the worship of many gods. Therefore, there’s nothing to prevent people to seize an opportunity to celebrate! Nobody can celebrate as lavishly and with such joy as the Indians do. That is why the biggest festivals last at least couple of days and sometimes even a week!
If you intend to visit India, plan your trip so that you can take part in one of the festivals. It will definitely be an unforgettable experience!
Celebration of the Indian festival of colours
Today, I will tell you about the Holi festival. We had an opportunity to take part in it during our last-year trip to India.
Certainly you‘ve heard about, or maybe you even took part in, very popular festivals of colours organized in many cities of Europe. However, not everyone knows that their idea comes from the Hindu festival – Holi.
Holi is a wonderful festival of joy, spring and colours. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon and in a month called phalguna, which falls in February or March of the Gregorian calendar.
This holiday takes place in various ways depending on the part of the country. The celebrations last several days. They start at the Holic fire, when all the villages, cities and communities gather by the bonfires singing and dancing. to wake up the next day and throw colorful powder called gulal, paint faces and pour water on each others.
The story behind Holi celebrations
Depending on the part of India, the celebration of Holi is associated with another legend. However, there is one that is considered to be the most likely beginning of this colourful madness.
Legend of Holika
Many Hindu holidays are celebrated to commemorate the victory of good over evil. In this case, Holi celebrates the anniversary of Holika’s death. Holika was sister of the Hindu demon king Hiranyakasipu and goddess who deceitfully attempted to kill his son – Prahlada. It is also from her name that the holiday takes its name.
One day king Hiranyakasipu became immortal and it turned him into the evil, prideful king who considered himself equal to the gods. His son, the zealous follower of the god Vishnu, didn’t like that attitude and one day decided to kill Hiranyakasipu. When the king found out about it, he got furious and together with his sister Holika they drew up a vindictive plan. Holika was supposed to wear a magical, fire-resistant coat protecting her from the fire and take Prahlada with her into the flames. God Vishnu seeing that became very angry and made the magical coat fall from the arms of Holika covering Prahlada in the same time. As a result, boy was protected, while the goddess burned to death in the fire.
In the legend, Hiranyakashipu and Holika represent evil, while Vishnu and Prahlad represent good.
Legend of love which connected Radha and Lord Krishna
The second very popular legend associated with Holi festival is story of Krishna.
Skin of Lord Krishna was in a dark blue colour making him very ashamed. He was also afraid that his great love Radha would not accept him because of that. Lord Krishna confided in and talked about the trouble with his mother, who advised him to colour Radha’s face whatever color he wants. When that happened, Radha and Krishna became a couple. It is in honor of their love to throw colorful powder on the second day of the Holi festival and everyone who plays fair should be covered with it. It is a symbol of love independent of age and social status, love which connected Radha and Krishna.
Gulal traditionally made of turmeric and spring plants also means the arrival of spring and the colors it brings to nature. However today, synthetically made versions are much more popular.
Our Holi in Calcutta
Generally speaking, Holi celebrations are the most spectacular in the parts of India, where there are most followers of the god Vishnu. This is primarily in the northern India. From my previous post, you know that Kolkata is located in the eastern part of the country and is the capital of the eclectic state of West Bengal. The most important god for the Bangladeshi people is the Durga goddess and Holi celebrations are a bit more modest here.
Nevertheless my experience was fantastic!
The next day after our arrival, we all went together for a common celebration. A whole housing estate gathered in the square and everybody, both older and younger, took part in the fun! Pink, yellow and green powders were flying everywhere, there were colorful face paints and water guns. The kids had the extra fun of filling water balloons and throwing them around. My presence was an additional attraction for them. They liked smearing my face with coloured paints and even though it took me two days to remove it from my face – it was worth it!
Everyone was extremely nice and hospitable. There were small snacks and a magical bhang lassi drink with an extract of female flowers and cannabis leaves. As you can see there is a lot of fun in India 😉 This drink, as you might imagine, has interesting properties, so stores selling it must have a special government license. Interestingly, bhang is considered a strong aphrodisiac, but officially its cultivation is forbidden in India.
How do you like the Indian Holi festival? Did you participate in any other festival of colours?
Thanks for reading!!