India is a colorful kaleidoscope of people, places and customs. Its festivals are celebrated for days and even weeks – something unheard of in Western civilizations. Talking of festivals, there is one that truly embodies the spirit of colors: Holi. It is a spring festival celebrated on Phalgun Purnima or Puranmashi (full moon), which according to the Gregorian calendar, falls sometime in the month of February or March. This year, it will be celebrated on March 27, Wednesday, with preparations already in full swing. Though primarily a Hindu festival, Holi is celebrated by all and sundry, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.
Holi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in India and Nepal – two countries with a Hindu majority – as well as in other countries with a smaller Hindu population like Pakistan and Bangladesh. The celebrations also extend to Malaysia, South Africa, the UK and US, Mauritius, Guyana and other places which have large Indian Diasporas. The festival is also very special for the people of Mathura, Vrindavan and Nandagaon as these areas are traditionally associated with Lord Krishna who is believed to have played Holi with Radha and other Gopis. These places become big tourist destinations during the Holi season.
According to Indian mythology, the word ‘Holi’ came from ‘Holika’, who was the sister of Hiranyakashipu: the great demon king who, after a long penance, received a boon from Brahma, the Creator. It made him invincible as he couldn’t be killed during the day or night, by man or animal, not indoors or outdoors, and neither on earth nor in the sky. As a result of his unique gift, his arrogance got the better of him – he attacked the Earth and the Heavens, demanding everyone to stop worshipping the Gods and bow in front of him. But his own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Vishnu, the Preserver and tried to convince his father to change his ways.
Hiranyakashipu tried to kill his own son by having him trampled by elephants, poisoning him and throwing him amidst poisonous snakes. But no matter what he tried, Prahlada remained unharmed. Finally, Hiranyakashipu had his son sit on the pyre in the lap of Holika – his demoness sister. Holika also had a boon that made her immune to fire. Prahlada accepted his father’s orders and prayed to Vishnu for his safety. Everyone watched with baffled eyes as Holika burnt to death while Prahlada stayed unruffled. Holika’s burning and Prahlada’s salvation is celebrated as Holi. In Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festivities continue for 16 days, commemorating Krishna’s divine love for Radha.
The festival of Holi also has other significances. It marks the end of winter and celebrates the many colors spring brings with it. Some also regard this least religious day as a way to appreciate good harvest and continuous fertility. People come out on the streets and roads, mostly dressed in white or light clothes, throwing colored powder and water at each other. It is a day that witnesses the blurring of differences in age, social status, gender, caste or religion.
At Floralis, we hope these differences go away forever; and wish a colorful Holi to you and your family. Don’t forget to check out a wide range of gifts and novelties that make this day extra special for your loved ones.