History of Holi

The ancient Indian festival of color known as Holika, or Holi, is primarily celebrated in India and Nepal, as well as in other regions around the globe. As an increase of tourism in recent years occurs during the festival of color, it has become exceedingly popular and important to regions that are known to have a direct connection to Barsana, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, Mathura and Lord Krishna.

There is a long-held belief of the Hindu religion that Hiranyakashipu was a demon of the worst kind – the greatest king of all demons and had been granted a boon by Brahma which made it near impossible to kill him. He grew more demonic and demanded that all people worship him and cease worshipping the Gods. His own son was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and this angered Hiranyakashipu such that he was determined to kill him. But alas his son was untouchable. After several failed attempts to kill his son, he finally ordered Prahlada to sit in his sister’s lap, Holika. His sister held a boon that kept her from being harmed by fire. Their father shackled them in the chair and started a huge fire. Prahlada prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect him. To everyone’s amazement Holika burnt to death while Prahlada was spared. Thus the burning of Holika and Prahlada’s salvation is celebrated as Holi. In some areas the festival is celebrated for many days – up to 16 days in Mathura – as an honor and remembrance of Krishna’s divine love of Radha.

The festival of Holi holds many purposes to the Hindus. It is a festival to scoot out winter and welcome spring’s lush harvests and fertile land. As a festival it serves to welcome spring fervently as the new season full of joy and bright colors. The festival itself is exhilarating with wild celebrations including bonfires and the throwing of colored powder at one another. The bonfires represent remembrance of Prahlada’s escape from the fire that his sister, Holika carried him into.

The color festivities last for about five days total and end on Panchami, which is known as the fifth day of the full moon. The origin of the current day Holi festival has been traced back to ancient Bengal. Interestingly the Holi festival lowers the strict gaps that normally exist between ‘classes’ in Hindu religion. Rich, poor, women, and men all rejoice and celebrate together – as such no polite behavior is mandated either and the entire celebration is a cause for much joy and excitement amongst all Hindus.

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