Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. It is primarily observed in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and countries with large Indic diaspora populations following Hinduism. It is also known as Phagwah and Festival of Colours, or as Doḷajāta in Orissa and Dol Jatra or Basantotsav in West Bengal
Each area celebrates Holi differently; the Bhil tribesmen of western Madhya Pradesh, who've retained many of their pre-Hindu customs, celebrate holi in a unique way. In rural Maharashtra State, where the festival is known as Rangapanchami it is celebrated with dancing and singing. In the towns of Rajasthan — especially Jaisalmer — the music's great, and clouds of pink, green, and turquoise powder fill the air. The grounds of Jaisalmer's Mandir Palace are turned into chaos, with dances, folk songs, and colored-powder confusion.
According to Hindu mythology, the world is looked after the Trinity of Gods - Lord Brahma, the creator; Lord Vishnu, the nurturer; and Lord Shiva, the destroyer. According to a legend, Goddess Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, one of the first sons of Lord Brahma, married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. Thus, Daksha did not invite her and her husband to a grand yagya arranged by him. When Sati came to know about the event in her father's house, she thought it to be a slip of mind and proceeded to participate in the event despite the warnings of her husband. But once she reached there, she realized her fault and was infuriated by the insult of her husband. As a penance for her disobedience, she entered the fire. When Lord Shiva came to know of her sudden demise, he was furious. Even after he controlled his anger, he started a severe meditation and renounced all work.
During the reign of Prithu, there was a terrible ogress called Dhundhi, who loved to devour innocent children. She had performed severe penances and had won several boons from the deities that made her almost invincible. However, due to a curse of Lord Shiva, she was not so immune to the pranks and abuses of young boys as she was to weapons and arrows. One day, the courageous boys of the village decided to get rid of her forever and chase her away from the village forever. They got intoxicated on bhaang and drunk and then followed Dhundi 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 for good. This is the reason that even today young boys are allowed to indulge themselves in rowdiness, using rude words and intoxication on Holi.
This exuberant festival is linked to yet another legend and is associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. This origin is later. According to Hindu belief, Krishna was an incarnation of God himself. It was Krishna, the king of the ancient city of Dwarka who popularised the tradition of Holi. The origin of the colorful and frolicking tone of Holi lies in the boyhood of Krishna. Krishna used to play pranks with his mates where he grew up in North India. During the spring, Krishna would play pranks by drenching the village girls, the Gopis. At first, it offended the girls but they were so fond of Krishna that soon their anger melted away. It did not take long for the other boys to join in, making it a popular sport in the village. As Krishna grew up, the play assumed a new dimension.The legend of Krishna's courtship with Radha, and playing pranks with the Gopis. This tradition has transpired through the ages, turning it into a community festival. During the passage of time the culture spread roots to other regions of India. The Holi play of Krishna and Radha with Gopis is well documented in hundreds of ancient paintings, murals and scriptures.
The mythological origins of this festival vary in different parts of India. The celebration of Holi is very ancient in origin. It celebrates the ultimate triumph of "good" over "evil". Literally "Holi" is the Hindi word meaning "burning" in the Hindi language. How it became associated with "burning" is a myth. The reference is found in ancient Indian Mythology.
Interesting legends of Holi that are most commonly cited revolve around the soul bond of Lord Krishna and Radha, Prahlad, the child-devotee of Lord Vishnu, Kamdeva, the Indian Cupid-God and Dhundhi, the immortal ogress.
Holi is also called 'The Festival of Colours', and people celebrate the festival by smearing each other with paint, and throwing coloured powder and dye around in an atmosphere of great good humour. Holi is seen by some as the Hindu festival that is nearest in spirit to St. Valentine's Day. People throw powder paint (called "gulal") at each other (yes, even at complete strangers) and no-one seems to mind. The more gadget-minded fill water pistols or long syringes (called pichkaris) with coloured water for distance squirting. Balloons and folded paper water bombs full of coloured water are another useful weapon of fun. Abeer (small crystals of mica) is used to make sparkly colours.
Holi is the Hindu festival that welcomes the Spring and celebrates the new life and energy of the season. Although Holi has religious roots, not much religious activity is involved in its celebration.Holi is the most energetic Indian festival, filled with fun and good humour; even the strict rules of separation between castes are abandoned. Holi is a great leveller.By the time everyone has been covered in paint and coloured water, it's pretty hard to see any of the normal clues as to who is what caste, or what class. Holi is a festival that's enjoyed by both high and low. Indian newspapers are likely to show pictures of ministers, even prime ministers, seriously splashed with paint
The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year. The festival's preamble begins on the night of the full moon. Bonfires are lit on street corners to cleanse the air of evil spirits and bad vibes, and to symbolize the destruction of the wicked Holika, for whom the festival was named. The following morning, the streets fill with people running, shouting, giggling and splashing. Marijuana-based bhang and thandai add to the uninhibited atmosphere. Promptly at noon, the craziness comes to an end and everyone heads to either the river or the bathtub, then inside to relax the day away and partake of candies. In the afternoon an exhausted and contented silence falls over India.
Holi celebration begins with lighting up of bonfire on the Holi eve. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub 'gulal' and 'abeer' on each others' faces and cheer up saying, "bura na maano Holi hai". Holi also gives a wonderful chance to send blessings and love to dear ones wrapped in a special Holi gift.