Holi - Full Moon Day of Phalguna

By editor - 28.5 2020

This is pre-eminently the spring festival of Bharat. The trees are smiling with their sprout of tender leaves and blooming flowers. With the harvest having been completed and the winter also just ended, it is pre-eminently a festival of mirth and merriment. Gulal (colored powder) is sprinkled on each other by elders and children, men and women, rich and poor alike. All superficial social barriers are pulled down by the all-round gaiety and laughter.

The day itself is associated with many interesting and enlightening Puranic legends. It is the day of Kamadahana, the burning of god Kama, Cupid. The virgin daughter of the king of Himalayas, Parvati, was in deep penance to acquire the hand of Lord Siva as her spouse. But Siva himself was lost in a deep trance entirely oblivious of the outside world. Kamadeva came to the rescue of Parvati and shot his amorous arrows of love at Siva. Siva, disturbed from his trance, opened his terrible third eye. The flames of Siva's wrath, leaping from his forehead eye, burnt Kama to ashes and thereafter Kama became spirit without a form. Siva then looked towards Parvati and fructified her penance by marrying her. It is this burning of lustful infatuation by penance that is signified in this festival.

Holi is also associated with the story of Holika, the sister of demon Hiranyakasipu. The demon-father, having failed in various other ways to make his son Prahlada denounce Lord Narayana, finally asked his sister Holika to take Prahlada in her lap and enter a blazing fire. Holika, who had a boon to remain unscathed by fire, did her brother's bidding. But lo, Holika's boon ended by this act of supreme sin against the Lord's devotee and was herself burnt to ashes and Prahlada came out unharmed.

One more legend pertains to another Holika, also known as Putana, who came as a charming woman to kill the infant Sri Krishna by feeding him with her poisoned breast. Sri Krishna, however, sucked her blood and she lay dead in her hideous form.

Such stories have effectively charged the popular mind with the faith that ultimately the forces of divinity shall triumph over the demonic forces. Symbolically, a bonfire of Kamadeva or Holika is made in every town or village, attended by unbounded fun and frolic. Games depicting the pranks of infant Krishna are also played by boys singing and dancing around the fire.