Holi: A festival of colours and a celebration of love in India. its not only celebrated among Hindus but has again popularity among non-Hindus folks too. indigenous
Along with more cultural and tourist exchanges, this Indian festival has gained popularity outside India also. Outside India, it has gained popularity not only in South-East Asia, of which India is a part of but also, it had reached as far as Europe and North America. However, seeing the festival of colour getting blended with the colours of other cultures, make it a pure fun and divine entertainment.
Holi in Berlin
The legend behind Holi in India:
The word “Holi” has been derived from the word “Holika”- evil sister of a demon King, Hiranakashyapu. The demon king after getting blessed from one of the Hindu Gods became virtually indestructible and became so authoritarian that he forced the people of his kingdom to worship him as a God. However, Prahalad, the son of the Hiranakashyapu, did not like it and he did not worship him as the God. Instead, Prahalad would keep on worshipping the lord Vishnu, one of the powerful lords in Hindu religion which made the king angry and he decided to kill his son but his every attempt was foiled somehow. So, the king finally decides to burn his son.
The idea behind burning his son was, Holika, the evil sister had earned a fire-proof cloak from lord Brahma and she would wear the cloak by taking Prahalad in her lap when there will be fire. However, there was a wind and the cloak flew away over to Prahalad and Holika was killed.
People in India celebrate this legend by burning logs and woods which is called “Holika-dahan” (Incineration of Holika)
More on Holika-Dehan:
This fire celebration is believed to burn away the evil and what is left behind is the good.
In some part of India, Holika-the bonfire is set up by the priest of that village/town and sometimes people predict the next one year by looking at the direction of the rising smoke.
The Holika-dehan is burned early in the morning. In villages, people come out of their houses from different parts of the village in unison shouting Holiaya and finally they join at one of the points in the village where they burn the Holika-Dehan.
Holiaya (The fire wood):
Holiaya plays a major role in Holika-Dahan. Holiaya is made up of mainly two things: 1. Chaffs & straws tied around 2. the hollow stem of a plant.
Chaffs and straws are directly brought from the open barn where the cut wheat crop is stored at an open barn beside the open fields. Chaffs and straws represent the freshly cut crops and in another way, this also involves the celebration of harvesting new crops. While the hollow stem plants are mostly regarded as weeds. So, burning them solves two purposes: removing the weeds and hollow dry stems help in burning the sacred bonfire called Holika-dahan. In some parts of India, before throwing the holaiyas into the fire, people sing together by curcling around the fire and abusing the evil sister of the devil king.
Lookwari (The fireball):
Lookwari are the fireballs tied with iron string or steel string. Specially children play with the fireball.
Lookwari is made by soaking a patch of clothes tied in spherical shape like a ball, inside Kerosene oil for days. Children use this lookwari and run away to the border of the village in the dark fields where they meet the children from the other villages.
Cow is regarded as a holy animal in Hindu mythology and its dung is also regarded sacred in some worshipping. Dry cow-dung cakes are also one of the main parts of the sacred bonfire called Holika-dahan.
Cow dung cakes
Ash from the Holika-Dahan:
The ash left out from the burnt bonfire is also sometimes regarded as sacred and people apply it to forehead as gracious gift from the God.
Kachchi-Holi (Raw Holi):
This kind of holi is mainly celebrated in the rural India. I have rarely seen people celebrating kachchi holi in cities.
Kachchi holi in Cities, a college in India
While playing kachchi holi, colours are not used. It would mainly be mud and the burned ash from the holika-dahan which is used to play the kachchi holi. It generally starts in the morning and lasts until noon or even before that. People usually come out with just a pant or dressed in old clothes because others would tear away the upper clothings as a part of fun.
Torn clothings hanging onto a tree
During Kachchi holi, mainly the ducts, drains and dusty streets of a village are cleaned. The main purpose in scientific view is cleaning the village. Then people go in a group to the near by river or pond and take bath there in the water. Another scientific explanation is dirt are not again brought back to the ducts or drain after cleaning them so people go away from village after intense cleaning.