Holi (होली) Basantotsav is a Hindu festival celebrated on the Phalgun Purnima (Full Moon), also known as the festival of colours or the festival of love. It is one of the most an ancient festival ever celebrated by humans which also became popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia.
History/Story of Holi Festival
Why Hindus Celebrate Holi – Historical Incidents Retold
Bhakt Prahlad and Blessing of Bhagwan Krishna
The history of Satyug revealed us the reason for celebrating Holi. In Satyug, King Hiranyakashyap won over the kingdom of earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Bhagwan Naarayana and refused to worship his father.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad but Bhagwan Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.
Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Bhagwan Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the Bhagwan blessed him for his extreme devotion.
Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika. And, is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil.
Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the history depicts that anybody, howsoever strong, cannot harm a true devotee. And, those who dare torture a true devotee of god shall be reduced to ashes.
History/Story of Holi: Holika Dahan, Victory of Devotee of Bhagwan Krishna
Even today, people enact the scene of ‘Holika’s burning to ashes’ every year to mark the victory of good over evil.
In several states of India, specially in the north, effigies of Holika are burnt in the huge bonfires that are lit. There is even a practice of hurling cow dungs into the fire and shouting obscenities at it as if at Holika. Then everywhere one hears shouts of ‘Holi-hai! Holi-hai!’.
The tradition of burning ‘Holika’ is religiously followed in Gujarat and Orissa also. Here, people render their gratitude to Agni, the god of fire by offering gram and stalks from the harvest with all humility.
Further, on the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes. It is believed that by following this custom their homes will be rendered pure and their bodies will be free from disease.
At several places there is also a tradition of cleaning homes, removing all dirty articles from around the house and burning them. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed and the sanitary condition of the locality is improved.
History/Story of Holi: Reunion of Bhagwan Shiv and Mata Parvati is Celebrated as Holi
Bhakts of Bhagwan Shiv celebrate Holi to commemorate reunion of Bhagwan Shiv and Pravati Mata.
Sati took several rebirths and always became Bhagwan Shiv’s wife. When Bhagwan Shiv’s wife Sati committed herself to fire due to disgrace shown by her father Daksha to Shiv, Bhagwan Shiv became extremely sad. He gave up his worldly duties and went into deep meditation.
Meanwhile, the daughter of the mountains, reincarnation of Sati, Parvati started meditating to have Shiv as her husband. Moreover, since Shiv was least interested in the affairs of the world, complications began to generate in matters of the world which made all the other Gods concerned and afraid.
The other gods then seeked the help of Kamadev, the god of love and passion to bring Shiv back to his original self. Kamadev knew that he might have to suffer the consequences of doing this, but he accepted to shoot his arrow on Shiv for the sake of the world. Shiv is Kaamdev Vijayi.
As planned Kamdev shot his love arrow on Shiv while he was in meditation. This made Shiv extremely angry and he opened his third eye – reducing Kamdev to ashes. However, Kamdev arrow had the desired effect and Bhagwan Shiv married Parvati.
A short while after this, Kamdev’s wife, Rati pleaded Bhagwan Shiv and said this was all the plan of the other gods and asked him to kindly revive Kamdev. Bhagwan Shiv gladly accepted to do so. Due to this incident, peace and continuum was restored in the world. Burning of Kamdev became symbolic to burning all desires. Holi is also celebrated to convey the victory over worldly desires.
Indian devotees, generally from Southern part, worship Kamdev – the god of Kaam – for his extreme sacrifice on the day of Holi. Kamdev is depicted with his bow of sugar cane having the string of a line of humming bees and his arrow-shafts are topped with passion that pierces the heart.
History/Story of Holi: Chasing Away Giantess Dhundhi in Holi to Bought Peace
The Giantess of Raghu kingdom, Dhundhi used to trouble innocent people and specially little children who became fed-up of her. Dhundhi, had a blessing from Bhagwan Shiv that she would not be killed by gods, men nor suffer from armories neither from heat, cold or rain. These blessing made her almost invincible but she also had a weak point. She was also cursed by Bhagwan Shiv that she would be in danger from playful boys who would annoy her.
Deeply troubled by the Giantess, the King of Raghu consulted his priest. Giving the solution, the priest said that on Phalgun 15, the season of cold vanishes and summer starts. This will be appropriate time to chase the Gaintess away. When the time came, the courageous boys of the village decided to get rid of her forever and chase her away from the village. Boys collected a heap of wood and grass, set it on fire with mantras, clapped their hands, went around the fire. They got intoxicated on bhaang and drunk and then followed Dhundhi to the limits of the village, beating drums, making loud noise, shouting obscenities and hurling insults at her and continued doing this until she left the village forever. The hurling abuses ruined her state of mind, she felt weak and frail from within, left with no choice, suffering powerlessness, Dhundhi fled from the village.
History/Story of Holi: Victory Over Demonic Forces is Celebration of Holi
At some places, people celebrate Holi to mark the death of evil-minded ogress by the name of Putna.
When Lord Krishna was a young infant growing up in Gokul, Mathura king Kamsa tried to find and kill him. Kamsa decided to send the demoness Putana to kill all babies until she found Krishna. Putana disguised herself as a beautiful woman and reached Nanda and Yashoda’s house, where she was greeted well by Yashoda. When no one was around, Putana picked up Krishna from palna and proceeded to feed him poisoned milk.
All this time, Bhagwan Krishna was aware that Putna (Putana, Pootna) was demon and he quietly went along with her plan. He sucked out Putana’s life-force while she fed him her milk and she turned into her original giant and scary form. But Krishna did not stop until Putna (pootna) was killed and thus he proved his greatness. It was the night of Holi when Lord Krishna killed Putna. Some who view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles believe that Putna represents winter and her death the cessation and end of winter. Effigies of Putna are burnt to celebrate the victory of Bhagwan Krishna over demonic forces.