HOLI- The Festival of Colors

Holi is a fun-filled festival of bright colors, water balloons, yummy gujiyas and melodious songs. The weather is just right, the cold winter is over and spring has set in. Even nature has donned a mantle of myriad colours. The festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. Holi is also considered to be a harvest festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land. It is also known as "Vasant Mahotsav."

History of Holi

The literal meaning of the word 'Holi' is 'burning'. There are various legends to explain the meaning of this word, most prominent of all is the legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyap.

Mythology tells us that Hiranyakashyap was a very powerful demon king who pleased Brahma after a long penance and was granted a boon. The boon that he asked for was that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra". This made it almost impossible for him to be killed. As a consequence, he grew arrogant and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping Gods and start praising him. Unfortunately for him, his own son Prahlada, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Undaunted by threats from his father, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned by Hiranyakashipu, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered his young son Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of his demoness sister, Holika, who could not die because she also had a boon. The boon demoness Holika had was that she could not be burned by fire.

Prahlada readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed. Actually, the boon worked only when Holika entered the fire alone, regarding which she was not aware. Later Lord Vishnu came in the form of a Narasimha (who is half-man and half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra).

Rituals of Holi

There are various rituals and traditions attached to Holi which are followed by people with great zeal and enthusiasm. Holi is a two day festival. First day of the festival is known as 'Holika Dahan.'

Days before people start accumulating woods for the lighting of the bonfire called Holika at the major junctions of the city. This is done to ensure that a huge pile of woods is mounted till the actual day of celebration. Then on the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Effigy of Holika, the evil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap is placed in the wood and burnt.. The ritual symbolizes the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee.

Second day of the festival is known as 'Dhulandi' which is considered to be the main day of Holi celebrations where actual colors are played and people enjoy this fun filled festival with great enthusiasm.

People take extreme delight in spraying coloured water on each other with pichkaris(water guns) or pouring buckets and buckets of it on each other. Singing Bollywood Holi numbers and dancing on the beat of dholak is also a part of the tradition. Amidst all this activity people relish gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other traditional Holi delicacies with great joy.

Drinks, specially thandai laced with bhang is also an intrinsic part of the Holi festivity. Bhang helps to further enhance the spirit of the occasion but if taken in excess it might dampen it also. So caution should be taken while consuming it.

Festival of Colours

Days before Holi, the markets get flooded with the colors of every hue. This aptly sets the mood of the people till the actual day of Holi. It is a colorful and joyous sight to watch huge piles of bright red, magenta, pink, green and blue everywhere on the streets. Buying those colors seems as you are bringing joys and color to your home and into your life. This festival is enjoyed a lot by children as they throw color filled water balloons on people. By the end of the day, everybody is unrecognizable and all look alike with their painted faces and body.

How to make Natural Holi colors at home

It is easy to buy colors off the shelf but still some people do take up the task of making colors at home, usually from flowers and natural ingredients available readily in most Indian kitchens.. These homemade colors are safe on skin and have a natural fragrance.

Green Color

To make dry green Holi color at home, mix henna powder with equal quantity of gram flour or green gram flour to get a beautiful and natural green color.

Yellow Color

Mix two teaspoons of haldi (Turmeric powder) with double quantity of besan (gram flour) to get a very skin friendly yellow color.

Red Color

Dry red hibiscus flowers in shade and powder them to make a vibrant and lovely red color. To increase the bulk, add any flour to it.

Wet Red Colour

Mix turmeric powder in water and add few drops of lemon juice. Within seconds, you will get bright red colour.

Wet Magenta Colour

Grate beetroot and soak in one liter water for magenta colour

Blue Color

The Jacaranda flowers can be dried in the shade and ground to obtain a beautiful blue powder. The flowers bloom in summers.

Wet Orange Colour

Peel around 12 large onions and boil in half liter water. Remove the onion peels. Now you will get an orange color with a light pink shade. Another method is to soak Tesu flowers in water for a night to get yellowish – orange color

It does take some effort and planning to prepare these natural colours but the results are worth it. It is a heartening to note that the awareness about the environmental impacts of celebrating Holi is getting widespread. Gradually, more and more Indians are choosing to turn to more natural ways of playing Holi.