Happy Holi, the Spring Festival of Colors
Also known as the Festival of Love, the Festival of Colors, and the Festival of Spring, Holi is and indigenous folk holiday celebrated throughout India and beyond.
Falling slightly before the Vernal Equinox, Holi takes place on the last day of the Full Moon of the Hindu luni-solar calendar. As such, the date varies from year to year. But every year, it kicks off a month-long festival which includes the Hindu New Year. Holi celebrates the end of winter and arrival of Spring, blossoming love, and the start of the Spring harvest season. It also commemorates the eternal and divine love of Radha and Krishna.
"The mythology of the Holi festival is based on is the beginning of the relationship between the god Krishna and the goddess Radha. The story goes that when Krishna was a baby, he drank poisoned milk from a she-demon, which caused his complexion to become blue for the rest of his life. This made him self-conscious, and he believed that people would not like him or want to have relationships with him because of his looks. He ended up going to the goddess Radha—whom he had feelings for—and colored her skin so that she, too, had an unusual complexion. After this, they fell in love, and Krishna knew that people accepted him as he was. The act of coloring another’s skin is now largely celebrated throughout the festival, as people dance in the streets throwing and applying colored powder to one another."
To this day, Holi is known for the vibrant array of colors. People of all ages, genders, and financial status gather in streets, parks, temples, and buildings to blanket each other in colors. These colors originally were made from herbs including turmeric, neem, dhak, and kumkum. These evolved into brightly colored powders and there is also a water-based pigment used in water balloons and water-guns called pichkaris. Regardless of form, it is tradition for all the colors to be used up by late morning.
All Holi traditions have their roots in the indigenous agrarian tribal customs. Each tribe has their own unique traditions, but their primary deity is the divine mother goddess Shakti and everyone celebrates with the sacred bonfire called Holika Dahan. "Holi is the primary festival for most tribes from the northern states of India. For some, it is perhaps even more important than Diwali, the other major Hindu festival. For many of the nomadic tribes such as the Banjara tribe of Rajasthan, Holi marks the festival during which they return to their native villages for celebrations and practice traditional dances and prayers to local and community deities. Many of these tribes also have local legends associated with the Holi bonfire in addition to the legend of Holika."
The sacred bonfire is lit, usually after sunset, signifying the Holika Dahan, the burning of the Holika. Symbolizing the victory of good over evil, it is made from broken branches, cow dung, old furniture as well as household trash. In more rural areas, thin bamboo sticks painted with traditional designs are sold to be used in the bonfire. However, the bonfire is not comprised of Mango or Homa Samgri, which is a sacred offering. Around the bonfire, people dance and sing, tell stories, play drums like the Dholak, and eat food including guiya, mathri, malpuas, thandai, pakoras and cold drinks.
But you don't need a bonfire to celebrate Holi! You can play your favorite music, sing along, and snack on your favorite foods. For a less-messy way to use color, you can paint your nails, grab your veils, and dance. You can set intentions to get rid of what no longer serves you, and make room for what you wish to bring into your life for this Spring.