Holi is a colorful festival and marks the commencement of spring. This is the perfect festival to let your hair down, play pranks and revel in the pool of colors that will be thrown across. One of the most popular lines used during Holi is ‘Bura na mano, Holi hai!’ (Don’t be sad/angry, it is Holi!), which pardons you and can help you get away with almost anything on this day. The festival is celebrated on the full-moon night of ‘Phalgun’, which falls in the month of March and marks the onset of spring, which signifies, freshness, beauty and color. Just like every festival in India signifies something, Holi is associated with the holiday spirit and symbolizes the victory of ‘good’ over ‘evil’. According to ancient customs, a bonfire is lit in the memory of the event and burning of the evil Holika and the victory of Prahlad, the son of demon king, Hiranyakashyap. Apart from lighting the fire there are various other customs such as using the ashes from the fire to light the burner at home, the preparation of certain sweets and playing with colors. If you would like to learn more, scroll further and explore this article.
Customs Related to Holi
Lighting the Bonfire
Lighting the bonfire on the full-moon night of ‘Phalgun’ is the first custom that marks the beginning of the festival. On the eve of Holi, people congregate in an open area and light bonfires made of dead leaves, twigs and wood. They dance and sing around the bonfire to welcome the spring and commemorate the triumph of Lord Vishnu and Prahlad, and the end of the evil ‘Holika’. People then take the embers from this holy fire to kindle their own domestic fires a home. The ashes of the Holi fire are also believed to have medicinal properties.
‘Dhuledi’ or Playing With Colors
The next morning, the festival of colors or ‘Dhuledi’ is welcomed. It is during this time that adults and children smear colored power on each other or use water jets, known as ‘pichkaris’ to squirt colored water on passers-by. In many households, the colors are prepared through a traditional color preparation custom known as ‘abeer’. Women usually prepare this using medicinal herbs, turmeric and kumkum (red vermillion powder). In modern times, synthetic colors and dyes are used and people use balloons, water jets and colored foams to play Holi with. The colors are usually bright, vibrant hues of reds, greens, blues, pinks and purples.
Visiting Family & Friends
Visiting family and friends and exchanging gifts and sweets are a very important part of Holi customs. On the day of Holi, the children venerate the elders of the house by touching their feet for blessings and offering sweets. The adults on the other hand, reward the children with blessings, new clothes or sweets for Holi, along with dabbing some color on the face for good luck. After this, families visit their relatives or friends houses and celebrate Holi together, reveling in the spirit of oneness and bringing the community closer.
Preparation of Food
Food is an integral part of Holi and is one of the reasons that keep both, adults and children brimming with energy on the day of the festival. Making mouthwatering sweets and delicacies are important, especially for the women in the house and the morning usually starts with the aroma of fresh preparations of sweetmeats with ‘Desi Ghee’. The most prominent sweets made in North India are ‘Gujjias’ and ‘Puran Poli’ in parts of Maharashtra and south India. ‘Thandai’ (a cool drink made with almonds, milk, sugar and spices) is served in large quantities and is quite often mixed with ‘bhaang’ (an intoxicating ingredient) as a part of the customs. Although ‘bhaang’ is considered heady, it is consumed during Holi as a way to de-stress and have fun!
Customs in Other Parts of India
In other parts of India, barley seeds are roasted in the fire and are consumed. It is believed that the yield for the forthcoming harvest season can be foreseen by reading the direction of the flames. Also, in some parts of north and east India, humor-poem meetings are arranged. Towards the south, communities offer first fruits, coconuts and harvest to the holy fire before playing with colors.
Holi is a colorful and very important festival, with various customs associated with it. Hope this article familiarized you with some of the many customs of Holi, the festival of spring.