Each year in Spring in various places around the world, people gather in the streets and with great joy, much enthusiasm and smiling faces , throw handfuls of brightly coloured chalks and dyes into the air. It is a time of happiness, love and laughter. Innocent bystanders and passersby do not escape the tradition with everything from chalks to to water balloons being used to add to the fun and excitement. So what is it and why is it celebrated?
The festival is traditionally called the Holi Festival and is celebrated throughout Hindu cultures. It is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and is timed with the arrival of spring. It is a time when people can come together and celebrate their “oneness,” throw away their inhibitions and celebrate life. It is a time of love and joy and forgiveness and is celebrated by covering themselves and each other in a kaleidoscope of bright colours.
Colour itself is highly significant in the Hindu culture, with each colour representative of an aspect of religion.
“Red” is symbolic of prosperity and fertility, a colour worn by Brides on their wedding day. It is the colour of love, of energy; the colour of the fertile rich clay the gives life to crops.
“Green” symbolizes the earth and the harvest, endless green rice paddy fields. It is the reflection of nature, the trees and growth. It is the colour that comes after the life giving monsoon rains that bring about an abundance of plant life and is associated with the heart “Chakra.”
“Yellow and orange” from saffron, symbolize sanctity which is one of the reasons they use a great deal of marigolds. It is courage and selflessness. Hindu monks wear bright saffron robes, announcing their renunciation of the “ego” and all their worldly possessions. Resembling the color of fire, saffron conveys sanctity, purity and sacrifice. To Sikhs, it’s also the color of joy or bliss. Yellow shares the same healing qualities as the sun, emanating warmth, optimism and light. Yellow is the colour of spring and is worn to celebrate some Hindu festivals.
In India the creator God Krishna, is famous for his blue-toned skin. “Blue” represents power and life and is also the colour of water. Water is a vital resource for an agricultural nation as it sustains all life on earth. Anything infinite is represented by blue, such as the ocean and sky; this is another reason why Krishna is depicted in blue. In India, colour also represents peace and wearing blue is believed to have a calming effect.
The legends behind the celebration of” Holi” are as vibrant and divergent as the colours themselves. Some legends relate to abundance and love and others to demonic desires. Some claim it depicts the death of the demoness Holika and the eradication of the god Prahlad by fire, for others, the burning of the Ogress known as Pootana and another, the burning of the Hindu god of human desire Kaamadeva on the day of Holi.
The common thread in all of the legends is the celebration of good overcoming evil and the celebration of life and joy. The joys of ”Holi” knows no boundary for today, the festival is not only celebrated across India and Nepal but across all parts of the world. Races are run in splashes of colour, festivals are enacted, and brightly coloured tumeric and chalk stained faces display their enthusiasm and love as they take part in this loveliest of all festivals, the “Holi “Festival.
By Debra Bouwer
The magical Holi Festival