Date: March 14, 2016
In Hinduism, Holi (also called ‘Holika’ or ‘Phagwa’) is an annual festival celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna.
It celebrates spring, commemorates various events in Hindu mythology and is time of disregarding social norms and indulging in general merrymaking.
This year, Holi will be celebrated on March 23 and March 24, although a number of organisations in New Zealand may celebrate the event on preceding or succeeding weekend.
Holi is probably the least religious of Hindu holidays. During Holi, Hindus attend a public bonfire, spray friends and family with colored powders and water, and generally go a bit wild in the streets.
The central ritual of Holi throwing and applying coloured water and powder on friends and family gives the holiday its common name ‘Festival of colours.’ This ritual is said to be based on legends relating to the pranks of Lord Krishna as a child but the beginning of Spring in India is the most popular reason for the Festival.
The ‘Holika’ Version
According to another legend, Holi is related to Hiranyakashipu, an evil King, who proscribed his son Prahlad from worshipping Lord Vishnu. Prahlad however did not heed to his father’s word.
An enraged Hiranyakashipu challenged Prahlad to sit on a pyre with his wicked aunt Holika who was believed to be immune to fire. (In an alternate version, Holika put herself and Prahlad on the fire on orders from her brother.)
Prahlad accepted the challenge and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
According to some accounts, Holika begged Prahlad for forgiveness before her demise, and he decreed that she would be remembered every year at Holi.
The Shiva Theory
An alternative account of the basis of the holiday is associated with a legend involving Lord Shiva, one of the major Hindu Gods. Shiva is known for his meditative nature.
Madana, the God of Love, decided to test his resolve and appeared to Shiva in the form of a beautiful nymph. But Shiva recognised Madana and in a fit of rage, shot fire out of His Third Eye and reduced her to ashes. This forms the basis for Holi’s bonfire.
Holi is spread out over two days (longer in some places).
It treats humankind as one race and does not distinguish between men and women, poor and rich, old and young and bosses and servants.
The traditional bonfire, ‘Holika,’ is lit on the night of the first day of Holi.
In Bengal, Holi features the ‘Dolayatra’ (Swing Festival), in which images of the Gods are placed on decorated platforms and devotees take turns swinging them.
Women dance around the idols and sing special songs as men spray coloured water at them.
- Police Minister Judith Collins with National MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and others at the Holi Celebrations of Waitakere Indian Association held on March 11, 2012
- Mela in Waitakere