Holi – the Hindu Festival of Colors, explained
Holi is a big holiday that’s about celebrating a few different things.
Over the past few years, big crowds and festivals have largely been put on hold when it comes to the Indian Hindu holiday, Holi. But this year, we’ve seen that the holiday is being celebrated again in a big way.
Holi is a big holiday that’s about celebrating a few different things. It welcomes springtime and is a day for family, fun and food. But there are also Hindu religious aspects to the holiday. Holi traditions come from a couple of stories.
In one story, the demon king Hiranyakashayap got angry that his son Prahlad didn’t worship him but the god Vishnu instead, who is a god in Hinduism who protects the universe. So, Hiranyakashayap and his sister Holika tried to kill Prahlad, but Vishnu rescued him before he could be killed. Holika died in the fire that was supposed to kill Prahlad, and Vishnu killed Hiranyakashayap. Prahlad then replaced his father as king. The bonfires held the night before Holi pay homage to this story.
In another story, the deity Krishna drank milk poisoned by a demon, making his skin turn blue. Krishna was worried that his love, Radha, wouldn’t like his new appearance. So, he took a colorful powder and smeared it on her face, which made her fall in love with him. That’s where the Holi tradition originated of people buying colorful powders from street vendors and throwing them at one another. People also douse each other in water using water guns and water balloons along with colorful powders.
As Dalpat Rajpurohit, an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, explains, “[People] throw colors on each other, which celebrates the mood, the blooming of the flower, the coming of the spring season, season of joy.”
Although Holi is usually seen as an Indian holiday, it’s celebrated all over the world. Nepal, Pakistan, El Salvador, Bangladesh, the Netherlands and many other places hold celebrations. Sometimes called the ‘festival of love,’ this is also a time for people to mend and strengthen relationships with others, maybe by smearing colored powder on their faces.
This year, Holi fell on March 8.