Holi is one of the major festival of India and is the most vibrant of all. The joys of Holi knows no bound. The festival is celebrated across the four corners of India or rather across the globe. The festival is filled with so much fun and frolic that the very mention of the word ‘Holi’ draws smile and enthusiasm among-st the people. Holi also celebrates the arrival of Spring, a season of joy and hope.
Story of Holika
Integrally entwined with Holi, is the tradition of ‘Holika Dahan’, which is actually lighting of bonfires. The ritual is symbolic of victory of good over evil and has its root in the legend of demon king Hiranyakashyap who wished to end his blessed son, Prahlad’s life with the help of his sister, Holika who burnt in the fir and no harm occurred to Prahlad. Since then the day is celebrated in victory of good over bad.
Story of Radha and Krishan
The legend of Radha and Krishna is closely linked with this tradition of colors on Holi. Young Krishna, who had a dark complexion was jealous of his beloved Radha’s extremely fair skin. In a mischievous mood, he applied color on Radha’s face. Following this ancient legend, lovers till date long to color their beloved as an expression of love.
Holi Celebrations in India
Holi is famous as Basant Utsav in rural India. It is one of the major festivals in India and is celebrated with extreme enthusiasm and joy. Gulal, abeer and pichkaris are synonymous with the festival. Elaborate plans are made to color the loved ones. Everybody wants to be the first one to color the other. In the ensuing battle of colors, everybody is drowned not just in colors of gulal but also in love and mirth. People love to drench others and themselves in colored water. Gujiyas and other sweets are offered to everyone who comes across to color.
Temples are beautifully decorated at the time of Holi. Idol of Radha is placed on swings and devotees turn the swings singing devotional Holi songs. Now-a-days small plays are organized reflecting the spirit of the festival.
What is remarkably same across the country is the spirit of Holi. Fun, frolic, boisterousness to the extent of buffoonery marks this festival of colors. What more can be expected- when the people get a social sanction to get intoxicated on the bhang, open not just their hearts’ out but also their lungs. And viola, nobody is expected to take offense too, as the norm of the day is, ‘Bura na mano Holi hai’.
Holi in Tamil Nadu
People of Tamil Nadu celebrate Holi around the legend of Kama Deva. On this day, songs are sung that tell the pathetic tale of Rati and her lamentations. Holi is known by three different names here, Kamavilas, Kaman Pandigai and Kama-Dahanam.
The Legend of Kaamadeva
The story prevalent in South India is that of Kamadeva-the Love God (the Hindu equivalent of Cupid), who moves through the woods in the season of Spring, aiming his passion tipped arrows that pierce the heart at all who cross his path, from his bow made of sweet sugarcane strung with humming bees.
Legend has it that shortly after Shiva’s consort sati committed suicide due to the disgrace shown by her father, Daksha to Lord Shiva, Shiva became sad and started to meditate. Meanwhile, the daughter of the mountains, Parvati, started meditating to acquire Lord Shiva as the husband. Since Lord Shiva was least interested in the world, all the God became concerned and afraid. They approached Kaama and asked him to shoot his arrow on Lord Shiva so that he gets back to his original self and marry Parvati. So, Kaama went and shot his arrow but Lord Shiva was angered and opened his third eye and burnt Kaama to ashes. Shiva then looked towards Paarvati and fructified her penance by marrying her.
The grief stricken Rati, Kamdev’s wife, then beseeches Lord Shiva for mercy. Shiva relents and partly restores Kamadeva to Rati. Though she can see him, he remains without physical form ‘anang’. The songs sung here are the stories of Rati’s lamentations. Another interpretation is that Parvati (Siva’s consort) brings Kamadeva back to life and the day he breathed again is celebrated as Holi. Thus, Holi is also considered as a festival that celebrates love.