Holi is usually celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun (March) in India. In this year, Holi is on March 17th after Poornima (full moon day), and on the Pratipada or the first bright day of the waning Moon. Holi arrives every year, and people break out to unleash the fervent joys pent up in their hearts. And the Nature, in the burst of Spring, joins the occasion of joy and happiness.
The fun of Holi: You hurl a handful of gulal or abeer (colored powders) in the air with an intense thrust of joy and shout Holi hai!!! Children rush out of their houses into the streets with pichhkaris or long syringes filled with colored water to have the fun sprinkling them on others. Balloons with colored water too are thrown at friends as acts of fun. Even the people who prefer to remain inside their house are pulled out by friends and relatives to smear them with colors and stimulate them to join in the mood of joy. This is the day people forget their worries and seek joy.
Symbolic of the colors of Spring: It is the Spring season, flowers bloom, fruits ripen, birds sing, cattle lazily grazes in the fields and the Nature seems to be celebrating the boom of colors. Earth enjoys the gracious sun after the cold days of winter. The Nature smiles upon us with an infectious warmth and spirit of joy. So people reciprocate to the bounty of Nature by singing and rejoicing together.
When the Nature is full of joy, how can men, women and children stay at home? They greet the Nature with open arms! This is the festival of thanksgiving when people express their gratitude to Nature.
Symbolic of the triumph of Love and Truth: On the night before Holi, streets are lit up with sizable bonfires. All the scraps, rubbish, junk and wastes are cast off into the fire to clean everybody’s houses and the neighbourhoods for a healthy atmosphere.
Hindu mythology has it that, a demon king Hiranyakashyap had a son named Prahlad who was a worshipper of Vishnu. But the king was so conceited that he ordered people to worship him as the only God. Despite several warnings from father, Prahlad continued to worship Lord Vishnu. King Hiranyakashyap decided to burn him alive. He ordered his sister Holika to step into fire with his son, as Holika was protected from fire by a boon. So this would burn Prahlad into ashes.
As Holika sat in the bonfire with Prahlad, she was burnt to ashes and Prahlad emerged from it, safe. Bonfire on the eve of Holi symbolizes end of sin, ego and all wrong doings, and triumph of good faith in God, love and affection.
The tradition of burning Holika is still followed even today in many states of India to render their society free of impurities as well as evil.
Raasleela and Holi: This festival of mirth in which people drench each other in colors amidst laughter and merry making is supposed to be similar to Lord Krishna’s raasleela. The playful pranks of Krishna are imitated to have fun. Holi celebrated in Vrindavan, Mathura, Barsana and other places where Lord Krishna is prayed with lot of devotion has a unique tradition of emulating Raasleela. During Raasleela, Krishna smeared colors on his beloved Radha to make her fair skin turn dark like his. This prank is still played among men and women with lot of Krishna consciousness. Idols of Krishna and Radha are also worshipped amidst songs of divine joy.
Holi and the height of sense of pleasure: On the Holi day, a few also enjoy getting intoxicated with a drink called Bhang. Acts made from intoxication creates hilarious spectacle that is enjoyed by friends and relatives. This also razes all customs and old conventions that instruct people to keep up the culture of restraint behavior and sober mannerisms.