Holi is celebrated at a time of the
year when everyone has had enough of the chilly winter
and looks forward to the warmth of the sun. Trees get
fresh new leaves that are at their glossiest best and
the flowers begin to pop open to claim their share of
fun in the sun. Even grandmothers abandon their knitting
for the glorious sunny days. They know that it’s
time to give in to good cheer, for harsh Indian summers
are just around the corner.
Holi continues to be celebrated with great vigour
through out India. Countless Hindi films have brought
the vibrant colours of the festival to the screen.
Indians all over the world eagerly await the Festival
of Colours, as bonfires are lit to banish the cold
dark nights of winter and usher in warmer spring.
Dhuleti, day after Holi, is the actual festival
of colours, when everything in sight is covered
in a riot of colours.
Twin towns of Nandagow (where Lord Krishna grew up)
and Barsana (where Shri Radha grew up), near Mathura,
are the epicentre of the celebrations. Lord Krishna,
while growing up in Vraj, popularised the festival with
his ingenious pranks. Gopies of Vraj responded with
equal enthusiasm and the festivities have continued
ever since. Role reversal, feminism etc. are accepted
customs for the duration of the festival! Men and women
of Vraj clash in a colourful display of battle of the
sexes. Celebrations start a week earlier than rest of
India. Men of Nandagow raid Barsana with hopes of raising
their flag over Shri Radhikaji's temple. They receive
a thunderous welcome as the women of Barsana greet them
with long wooden sticks. The men are soundly beaten
as they attempt to rush through town to reach the relative
safety of Shri Radhikaji's temple. Men are well padded,
as they are not allowed to retaliate. In this mock battle
the men try their best not to be captured. Unlucky captives
can be forcefully lead away, thrashed and dressed in
female attire before being made to dance!!
The festival moves on to other parts of Vraj. Soon
enough, it is Dhulati and entire India celebrates the
joys of spring as the "festival of colour".
The colourful festival is celebrated in most parts
of India during February-March (in the month of Phalguna
according to the Hindu calendar). The celebrations vary
depending on region and local traditions but the common
part is exchange of colours.
According to the legend Hirankashyap was a very powerful
Devil. In his fight against the Gods he had defeated
the Gods and because of this he became very egoistic
and had issued an order that no one should pray to God
or even take the name of God. Due to fear people started
praying him. His son Pralhad was a true devotee of God.
He didn't obey his father's order. Hirankashyap got
angry on him and order for the most rigorous punishments
to him. But this did no harm to Pralhad. Hirankashyap
had a sister by the name of Holika. She had been grant-
-ed a boon that fire will do no harm to her. Hirankashyap
ordered Holika to take Pralhad on her lap and sit on
a bed of fire. Holika was burnt in the fire and Pralhad
survived with no harm done to him. As a remembrance
to that event, people celebrate Holi by burning wood
and pray to Goddess Holi for their well-being.