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`The darkest hour is just before the dawn`; a saying which truly signifies the Indian festival called Holi. It symbolizes dawn, light, life, a surge of energy. Holi , a festival which begins at night suggests destruction of evil and a hope of good. In the beginning it was celebrated as festival of fertility and harvest but today it is also celebrated in the commemoration of some Hindu legends. It symbolizes rebirth. Earth casts off her darkness and is ready to get entrenched in bright colours of happiness.
It is celebrated in the month of March or in the month of Phalgun(Hindu calendar) or Masi (mid-Feb to mid-March). Holi is also called Kamadahana (destruction of passionate desires). It lasts for two or five days in different parts of the country. It is even celebrated for sixteen days at few places. A fire, Holika, is lit at night nearly at 10.00 pm .People offer coconuts, flowers to the Holika.
The origin of holi is not specific, though many mythological legends are described for its celebration. It is older than the current legends explained for it`s origin.
It is said, that Hiranyakashipu , daitya Raja ( demon king), wanted to avenge the death of his brother who was also a demon. His brother was killed by Varada ( one of the avatars - a god or goddess appearing in a bodily form on the earth - of Lord Vishnu - the preserver God of the trio of Gods in Hindu pantheon ) for terrorizing Gods and Goddesses.
Thus, Hiranyakashipu performed a great penance to make his powers equivalent to that of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma ( the creator God of the trio of Gods in the Hindu pantheon ) was pleased by his tapas ( penance) and asked him his wishes. Hiranyakashipu requested Brahma to grant him an eternal life. Brahma refused and urged him to ask for something else. So, he thought over and asked for something that will protect him from any kind of death. He said, "Let I be killed ,neither by any weapon nor by any natural cause; neither during day nor during night ; neither on land and nor in the air ; neither by fire nor by water; neither inside his home and nor outside it ; neither by a human nor by an animal and not by any God". Thus, Brahma granted him the boon.
He became arrogant with the possession of such powers and wanted to see his sole rule on Heaven, Earth and Underworld. He hated Lord Vishnu and his name. He threatened and terrorised the bhaktas (devotees) of Lord Vishnu.
When Hiranyakashipu was performing penance Gods ransacked his city and also had destroyed his palace. His wife was expected a child and hence she was sent by Gods to Sage Narada`s Ashram( Hindu religious accommodation). Narada muni( sage) taught her that Lord Vishnu was the all-pervading and the true creator; the essence of all things; the soul of the souls. Pralhad, the child to be born to the queen absorbed all the lessons though he was in the womb.
Hiranyakashipu came back and took his wife back to the city. Pralhad was born. Pralhad though born in a demon`s family was very pious and was wholly devoted to Lord Vishnu. Once Hiranyakashipu asked his son about the best thing in the universe. He was shocked at what he heard. Pralhad had replied that, to renounce the world and take refuge in Lord Vishnu is the best thing in the universe.
Hiranyakashipu then appointed a guru (tutor) to take care of him because he thought that the Gods were secretly persuading his son to worship Lord Vishnu. When Pralhad returned, his mind had not changed. He still worshipped Lord Vishnu and felt nothing more important than Him. Hiranyakashipu tried to convince him of his own greatness and strength. But, Prahlad was totally taken on by Lord Vishnu`s bhakti (devotion) and he did not accept his father as `the Greatest`. Hirayakashipu didn`t want the people to follow his son and become devotees of Lord Vishnu.
Thus, he tried to kill his own son. He attempted to kill him by throwing him down the mountain cliff . Pralhad was to be trampled by elephants. But, something stopped the elephants. He was also kept in a room filled with hungry and poisonous snakes. He was made to hold hot pole.He was also administered poison. But, everytime Pralhad emerged out safe. Several such attempts failed and he couldn`t make child Pralhad to change his mind. Pralhad was always engrossed in his Lord Vishnu. All throughout this torture too, he kept on chanting `Om Namo Narayan` (Hail Lord Vishnu ).
Hiranyakashipu had an evil sister, Holika . She was immune to fire. This power was gained after a long penance. Now was the time to use her powers, Hence, she agreed to her brother`s request.This day, celebrated as Holi is day when Holika sat on a pyre with Pralhad on her lap. But, the expected did not happen. Pralhad with the protection of his faith in Lord Vishnu came out of the fire alive and scar-free. Holika was burnt to death. Her powers lost their effect before Pralhad `s faith.Later, Hiranyakashipu was killed by Lord Vishnu.
Another narrative of the love of Lord Krishna (8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and Radha is prevalent . He teased Radha and Gopikas ( milkmaids of Mathura ); broke their pots full with water; stole their clothes and hung them over trees while they had their baths. He was known for his pranks and playful nature.Though the Gopis got annoyed, they liked him and his pranks.Lord Krishna often told his mother, Yashodha, about Radha who unlike him was fair in complexion. So one day, his mother told him to try some colour on her, to see a change in her complexion.
Thus , Krishna took different colours and coloured Radha and the Gopis. Radha and Gopis were reluctant to play with colours but they enjoyed it. They liked Krishna , mischievous boy of Gokul. He used to play with pichkaris ( big syringes tused to sprinkle water) This instance thus, became an occassion of merry-making every year. Krishna continued this festival in Vrindavan , Gokul, Nandgaon, Barsana.This celebration introduced colours to Holi. It is this mischievous spirit of courtship that enters this festival.Holi thus honours the divine love of Radha and Krishna.
In Tamil Nadu, people honour the sacrifice of Kama Dev (God of love or the Indian cupid).He is active during spring season and wanders through forests, valleys, plains in search for a victim of his arrows. He shoots at insects, birds, animals and man. His bow is made up of sugarcane. The string- line is of humming bees. His arrows are of flower-shafts which are tipped with passion.Parvati (main Goddess of Hindu pantheon), daughter of Himavantha (The chief of all Himalayas), wanted to marry Lord Shiva ( The destroyer God of the trio of Gods of the Hindu pantheon). . She was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva since her childhood days. She performed meditation and worshipped Lord Shiva. She used to serve him during his penance.But, he didn`t even look at her.The marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati was necessary.
Tarakasura , a demon born to Vajranga( demon born to sage Kashyapa and his wife Diti) and Vajrangi( demoness). He performed great penance and secured two boons from Lord Brahma. One, nobody be more powerful than him and two, he be killed only by the son of Lord Shiva. He threatened angels and they behaved as slaves to him. He did not let anyone to acquire knowledge . People were permitted to drink as much they desired. He did not like benevolence, charity, good, sacrifices. He was growing arrogant. He did not let anyone to meditate and destroyed the kutirs( smalls huts where sages carry out meditation. Only Lord Shiva was allowed to meditate and it was his own advantage. Tarakasura knew that Shiva was in penance and does not intend to get married.
Lord Shiva had lost his wife, Dakshayani ( daughter of King Daksha ). King Daksha did not appreciate her marriage with Lord Shiva. Once he arranged for a Yajna. He called all Gods and Godessess. But he did not call Shiva and his own daughter. Even after much dissuasion from Lord Shiva, Gauri ( another name of Dakshayani, also known as `The yellow-hued one` ) attended the function.There, Daksha spoke insultingly of Lord Shiva at the Yajna. Gauri ,unable to bear the insult of her husband, threw herself in the fire.She had yogic powers by which she destroyed herself in this manner.
Parvati, the daughter of Himavantha, was a reincarnation of Gauri. Hence, in this life it was necessary to marry her to Lord Shiva. For one, She was very much devoted to him and two, it was indispensable for the destruction of Tarakasura.All the Devas( Gods), Dootas ( angels) decided to take the help of Manmatha (another name of Kama Deva). He was called upon to arouse a feeling of love for Parvati in Shiva`s heart. He was aware of Shiva`s third eye which emits out fire and was ready to give his life for a good cause.
Once, Parvati was singing a song in praise of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was pleased with Parvati`s devotion and her sweet voice was stopped his meditation and was going to look at Parvati. In order to disrupt his penance, Kama Dev shot five of his arrows of love at Lord Shiva`s heart at the moment when he was looking at Pravati with his half-open eyes. This interrupted his penance.Thus, furious Shiva opened his third eye and instantaneously Kama Dev was burned to ashes. Lord Shiva smeared his forehead with Kama Deva`s ashes and disappeared. At the request of Rati ( Kama Deva`s wife), Kama Deva was brought back to life but in a form visible only to Rati and Shiva.
This incident of burning off Kama Dev is called kamadahana or Holi. The posture of God burning kama is called kama dahana murthi (Shiva`s murthy facing south) and is one of the 25 maheshvara murthis .
Devaki (Lord Krishna`s mother) was going to marry a Vasudeva. Kansa (Devaki`s brother) loved his sister and upon learning this he urged to be the charioteer of the bride and groom on their wedding day. It so happened that, he was riding them to the palace when they heard a voice from the skies. It said that the eight child born to Devaki will destroy him. As he was merciless, he was ready to kill his sister at that moment. Vasudev interfered and pleaded for some mercy. So, he put the couple in prison .
Whenever Devaki gave birth to a child the guards would inform Kansa and he would take the child and hurl the child to the ground. Six of Devaki`s children were killed this way. The seventh child, while still in Devaki`s womb, was miraculously transferred to the womb of Rohini(another wife of Vaasudeva). Kansa was told that Devaki gave birth to a still baby.
On the 8th day of the Hindu month Shravan (July- August) just before the midnight Vasudeva was forewarned by gods and instructed to take the child immediately on birth to his friend Nanda`s house. Nanda was herdsman and lived on the other side of the river Yamuna. He was asked to bring the girl child of Yashodha( Nanda`s wife) so as to avoid suspicion, Thus, he was instructed to lie to Kansa presenting the girl as his eight child. When Krishna was born at midnight, the Gods put all the guards of the prison to sleep and Vasudeva`s shackles opened. This enabled him to do just as he was foretold. Noticing a girl child Kansa still didn`t stop and threw the child to the ground. Before hitting the ground the child flew up in the air and said, "The Eight child of Devaki and your slayer is already born and was alive."She was a Goddess.
The next day, Kansa heard a news that a child named Krishna was born in Gokul. Kansa got suspicious and was not ready to take any chances.He called a demoness named Pootna. He ordered her to kill every child born in the month of Shravan. Pootna using her powers changed into a beautiful lady. She applied poison to her breasts. Then, she went on from house to house looking for a baby boy born in the month of Shravan.
She appeared a good lady and was welcomed in the houses. She acted as if playing with the baby and then covertly fed the baby. Immediately the baby died. She similarly killed many babies.Then, she found Nanda`s house and was welcomed there. She acted to play with baby Krishna and tried to feed him. But, Krishna being divine sucked out her life.
Holi is celebrated to remember this event of joy and pride, when Krishna destroyed Pootna.
In Bhavishya puran, it is stated that in the kingdom of king Prithu; Dhundi , a Rakshasi(ogress) liked to devour children. She was immune to weapons. The village children were very frightened of her. Once a grandmother of one of the village children went to a sage. He told her that, even though she was immune to the weapons , she was not immune to the abuses, pranks and foul language of the young boys owing to a curse of Lord Shiva. So, the old lady went back to the village and gathered some young boys. She told them Dhundi`s weakness. These boys had bhang and went behind the ogress beating drums, dholaks, making a huge noise, hurling insults at her. Being susceptible to such things, she ran away for her life. People of the village celebrated this event with a hug bonfire that night. Since then the day came to known as Adada or Holika.
One can call Holi by any name he wants but the spirit of Holi can never change. It is called Latthmar holi in Barsana,Nandgaon, Mathura; Dulandi holi in Haryana; Ranpanchami or Shimga or Shimgo in Maharashtra and Goa; Basanti Poornima or Vasant Poornima in Shantiniketan; Dol Poornima, Dol Jatra in West Bengal and Orissa; Hola Mohalla in Punjab; Phagu Poornima or Phagwa in Bihar; Kaman Pandigai in Tamil Nadu.
Fire marks the beginning of Holi. The customs and traditions to lit holika vary slightly in some parts of the country. Earlier it was celebrated all over India for five days. Holi is just not about light , colours and sweets; it is also about wishes, love, friendship. The celebration of Holi; though it is loosing it`s religious aspect; doesn`t differ from ancient Indian celebration.
Holi is a very old festival of Aryans. It is described beautifully in the seventh century play Ratnavali written by Harshdev. Dashkumar Charit and Garud Puran also state about Holi.
In olden days Holi was celebrated as Vasantotsav ( spring festival). It is called Madanotsav by Mahakavi Kalidas. The Bhavbooti in his play `Maltic Madhav` stated that King happily celebrated Holi with his subjects.
It is described in Vedas and Puranas of Narada .Jaimini`s Purvamimamsa-sutras a voluminous work which has twelve chapters and Kathakagriha-sutras are two other very old religious works that mention Holi. explaning its celebration.Lunar calendar can be assessed in two ways : Purnimanta and Amanta. According to, Purnimanta the full moon of Phalgun purnima was the last day of the year while Amanta accepted the new moon of Phalgun as the last day.The latter belief is more accepted today.
The 16th century sculpture found at Hampi(when it was the capital of Vijaynagar), shows maidens ready to play Holi with the royal couple. The king and the queen are surrounded by the dasis (maids) ready to spray coloured water through pichkaris. The syringes or pichkaris were made of bamboo.
Other such example of Holi is the 16th century paintings of Ahemadnagar demonstrating Vasnt Ragini( spring music). The royal couple is sitting on a garden swing and a maiden playing music is seen on one side and other maidens spraying water at the pair are seen on the other.
Painting of Mewar ( circa 1755) shows the king with his courtiers.The king is distributing some gifts to the people, beautiful dance is going on and thereis a tank filled with coloured water.
There are some other Rajput paintings which show royal Holi celebrations. The miniature painting of Bundi( Rajasthan) shows a king seated on an elephant on some more elephants on both the sides of the royal elephant. Some dasis(maids) are seen showering gulal(colour) on the king.
The 18th century painting at Bundi shows Radha and Krishna in the middle and the gopis on either side. The gopis are with drums , veena, colours and syringes. The sky is clear blue and the grass, lush green.
Something round like the modern day water-balloons is seen in the paintings at Kangra( Himachal Pradesh). It shows Krishna with the gwalas(cowherd boys) and Radha with her playmates. There are dance and music and also sprays of colours.
Indian people are excited with the nearing of spring. It marks Holi. The day is also celebrated as the birthday of Sri Krisna Chaitanya (A.D. 1486-1533), mostly in Bengal, as also in Puri (Orissa), Mathura and Vrindavan (in Uttar Pradesh).It starts on Dwadashi ( 12th day).
In Bihar people clean their houses. A week before Holi people start collecting twigs, unnecessary furniture, chopped wood of araad , redi and holika tree and pile it up at some place. They keep on adding up some wood while passing by. Preparation of natural Holi colours starts one month before. On the first day of Holi, thalis of colour and a pot of liquid colour are arranged. In early days Purohit( priest) was invited to begin the celebrations.Now, the responsibility is taken over by the elders.
The elder member of the family applies some colour on the forehead of each member in the family. Each family member repeats the the same. Youngsters apply colours to the feet of their elders. People gather together for the Holika fire. In UP effigies of holika are burnt.On the night of Holi(Phalgun Poornima ) it is lit with the chanting of Raksogna Mantras from Rigveda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on).People offer Hola (prayer) to the fire and pray for a good harvest. This day is also called as Puno.
They offer gram and stalks from the harvest along with coconuts and flowers to render gratitude. It is believed that Holi is named after fried cereals or parched grains called as Holla in Sanskrit.It is also a tradition to offer wheat and oat. Scorched coconuts are taken home as Prasad.At some places like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh they throw cow-dung and shout insults at holika . Embers of this fire are carried home and yheylight fire at home. It is said that, to keep away the evil Vibhuti (sacred ashes ) obtained from this ritual is applied to the forehead. The Vibhuti is called Bhumi Hari.
Colour all; colour yourself; colour your life, says Holi.. This is the second day of Holi and is also known as Parva or Dhulandi. Atmosphere is covered up in clouds of beautiful colours. These colours can be used dry or mixed with water.
Newly married girls make silver and gold colours from powers available in the market.Gulal, Abeer and other natural colours made from flowers of Tesu are used. Tesu is also called flame of forest or palash. It`s flowers are red and give red colour and when mixed with water produce saffron colour. The mixture considered good for health, probably because of the red glow it leaves on skin and it is also considered to keep away contagioous diseases. Natural colours come iwith fragrances.
Abeer is made from crushed pieces of mica. These are mixed with gulal to give it a shine. People use pichkaris to sprinkle colours. Some places they arrange gatherings. Common liquid-colour tanks are also built at these gatherings. Water balloons are real fun for all during holi but for the ones who stand them..
During this period , people are prone to fever and cold due to seasonal transition. The natural colours used during Holi, prepared from Neem, Haldi, Tesu have medicinal uses. Holi is welcome in such a season when people feel a little lethargic due to the transition from cold to warm. The screaming and loud talks, quick movements and loud music help to revitalize people.Some biologists assume that liquid dye or Abeer penetrates the pores of our body and strengthens the ions making our body healthy.
People gather in groups and colour each other and the other people passing by saying only one thing, "Bura na mano aaj Holi hai" ( don`t mind, it`s Holi).
At some places, there is a custom in the undivided Hindu families that the women of the families beat their brother-in-law with her sari rolled up into a rope. This is done in a mock rage as the brother-in-law tries to douse her in colour. In the evening, he brings her sweetmeats.
It is a tradition, at few other places, to invite son-in-laws for meals. They are presented with Pyalas - a crisp note of any denomination from rupees five to five hundred along with a glass of a drink Married daughters are given Kothli or travel -money by their mother-in-laws or the eldest lady in the family.At few places, mothers give their daughters new dresses.
It is a custom in some families that a new bride has to play pranks. She is to lure someone, especially, her parents-in-law into a room and locks them in. The bride then demands a gift for setting them free. The bride is supposed to sing a song specially composed for the occasion, in which she demands her gift. The gift is usually a saree or a piece of jewelry.
At Mathura, Sanjhi (an art form) is practised everywhere. It is like a stencil. A scene is made on a paper and made by cutting out along the lines drawn. During Holi , some artists put sanjhi in a basin and fill colours. Then, it is removed and a beautiful picture is left behind. Krshna is the favourite figure of these paintings. Scenes of Krishna standing on Kalia( a large snake in Hindu mythology) and Krishna holding a colour-pump instead of a flute. Holi scenes can also be seen at Madhubani folk Paintings in Bihar.
During Holi, everything is colourful; from faces of children to the faces of elders; from corridors to streets; from posters to newspapers. Holi greetings has developed a new way of conveying wishes. Some are full of wishes and short poems while some simply made in colours.
Sweets are an inseparable part of any festival. During the day of Holi boys enjoy Bhang (drink made from leaves of marijuana[ cannabis sativa]) . It gives one a feel of ecstacy. Thandai from Gujarat is a sweet drink made from milk is also a favourite of the people.
After a boisterous activity people feast on vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals. But the quiet evenings are marked by visits of relatives and friends. Here, sweets are exchanged which demonstrate a sharing attitude. Puranpoli, a very favoured dish from Maharashtra is liked by people all over India. Other sweets such as gujiya, mathri, petha, malpua, dahi badas, bara, gulgula, phulourie, bigany, mango or tamarind chutney, potato ball, prasad, channa, ghoja, mahambhoog, kheer or sweet rice are also prepared at Holy gatherings in temples.
Celebration of Holi differs in various parts. Thus, we see different moods of Holi. the aggressive mood in Nandgaon and Barsana; the serene in West Bengal. There is much adrenaline flow in Punjab during Holi.
Dol Jatra or Dol poornima is what we call Holi in Bengal. People put on yellow clothes and attend Jatra. It is a peaceful ceremony. It is celebrated as the birthday of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya. People decorate the idol of Lord Krishna and Radha and carry it on the streets in a beautifully decorated palanquin. The elder member of the family observes fast and performs puja. They offer prayers to Lord Krishna and Agnidev (one of the highly venerated Gods in Aryans).
The importance of Holi as a spring festival ( Vasantotsav) was encouraged again by Rabindranath Tagore , the famous saint-poet and the Indian Noble laureate.The students of Bishwabharti University wear yellow clothes , wear garlands and perform cultural programmes at Shanti Niketan. The programmes bring out various beautiful and colourful faces of this spring festival. It`s a dramatical and musical ceremony. The students and teachers together play Holi with abeer and gulal. Liquid colour is forbidden here.
People of Orissa also celebrate Holi in a similar way. They worship God Jagannath and visit the Puri temple in Orissa on this day. Idol of Lord Jagannath is placed in the decorated palaquin and a procession is taken out in the main streets. People take turns to swing the palaquin and women dance around the palaquin singing devotional songs. The men spray coloured water and coloured powder at them.
Gwalas(milk men) carry the palaquin on their shoulders as Krishna belonged to their clan. They play games such as Dandi Khela .They set up special tents,Jhoolan mandap, to place the idol of Lord Jagannath at night. Next morning people apply gulal to the idol and enjoy the whole day by having sweets like pethas, laddoos of puffed rice and sesame seed. They play with colours and towards evening they take the idols for a dip in a pond. Then, the idols are taken back to the temple.
Like other places, Holika fire is lit in the evening. Other morning, newly married women carefuly sweep the ashes and mark that place with drawings made of pwdered sundried rice and water.
Initiated in the 18th century with Vaishnavism, Manipuris celebrate holi for 6 days.. An amalgamation of Holi and another very old festival called Yaosang is observed.in the Holi played here.
A thatched hut of mud and clay is made to be burnt, in the evening.Youths perform thaabal chongba.(folk dance) for all the 6 days of Holi. It gives the boys and girls achance to meet. In Manipur, boys have to pay girls to play Holi with them. Dances, devotional songs, cultural programmes are organized at temples. Devotees gather in white dresses and yellow turbans and play with colours in front of the temple. Large procession is taken to the Krishna temple near Imphal on the last day.
The other tribes of North west India have their own ways celebrating this spring festival. They light fire on the eve of Holi. These tribes worship the goddess. They have preserved some of the Hindu customs. Tribesmen offer kesudo and mango spring flowers and grains to the Holika.
Young men and women are able to make contacts which further give way to marriages. Thus, these young people look forward to this festival with great interest.
Holi in Bihar is celebrated with the same enthusiasm like the rest of the country. They put dung cakes, wood of araad, redi and Holika tree and grains of fresh harvest and fallen leaves in the Holika fire. The eldest member or a purohit( preist) lights the fire.
At some places mud baths are prepared. This is something that is fun to do and creates a jovial atmosphere. High- pitched folk songs, use of dholaks along with bhang (drink made from marijuana) is characteristic of this state.
Latthmar Holi, another name of Holi as is called in Braj. It`s a two-week long festival enjoyed with Hori(folk songs) and Ras Lila(folk dance). The preparations start a week before than the rest of India. It is really a severe form of Holi played in honour of Radha and Krishna. Role-reversal is the spirit of Holi here. The men-folk of Nandgaon go to Barsana to tease and play Holi with the women-folk. They also have to pull up their flag flag at the famous Shri Radhikaji temple. The women strike back with long sticks and men have to save themselves; hence the name Latthmar.They have to make way to the temple to hoist their flag. They are well-padded and and are trained not to retaliate. But, they shouldn`t get caught at the hands of women. The ones who are caught are made to wear womens attire and make-up and made to dance.
The next day, it is the turn of men of Barsana. They visit Nandgaon showering colours of reds. These are natural colours made from flowers of Kesudo ( a naturally occurring orange-red dye). They are similarly beaten up by the women-folk of Nandgaon. The streets are heavily crowded.. It is just a mock battle of sexes.It is celebrated in Vrindavan, Gokul, Nandgaon, Barsana. In Dauji in Nandgaon , people beat men with whips made from old clothes .
It is presumed to have been started by King Indradyumna in Vrindavan. It starts from Shukla Chaturdadhi of Phalgun. Here, it is celebrated for three to five days.It is essencially a religious celebration venerating Lord Krishna and Agni.The fire lit on the first day is be kept burning till the 21st day.
In Himachal Pradesh thousands of people gather at Ponta-Sahib, a holy shrine in the Sirmour district on the banks of river Yamuna. People here are more enthusiastic about playing colours. Children bring pichkaris in innovative designs.
Fascinating Ice Holi is played in Kulu. People gather at the Slang Pass and make colourful snowballs by mixing colour and snow.
In north India they also arrange hasya-kavi sammelans and biggest fool awards
Hola Mohalla is an annual festival in Punjab`s Sikh community and was started by Guru Gobind Singh(The tenth Guru). It is fair starting on second day of Holi at Anadpur Sahib in Punjab. It is a three-day festival. It incorporates events such as standing on two running horses, bare-back horse riding, mock fights( Gatka) and tent-pegging . The aim of this was physical strengthening .
Music and poetry competitions light up the atmosphere. Kirtan and religious lectures are arranged in durbars in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. On the last day a procession is led by Panj Pyaras from Takht Keshgarh Sahib( one of the five Sikh religious seats). This procession passes through seversl important Gurudwaras(sikh place of worship) like Qila Anadgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takht.
For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service). Villagers living nearby provide wheat flour, rice, milk, sugar and vegetables. Women help with cooking and other people help with the cleaning of utensils. A pilgrim sits on ground in a row and is served a traditional cuisine.
In Rajasthan and North India, especially Kankaria and Jamalpur in Ahmedabad Holi atmosphere is lively. The people here play with colours and use pichkaris( big syringes used to spray colour), perform folk dances. The celebration is more enthusiastic than most of the country.
In Jaipur, an exciting celebration of Holi is seen. They arrange royal elephant sports and also play Holi. It`s really a spectacular.
The colourful Holi in Gujarat is significant for tribals of Garasia and Bhil Adivasis.They get together at Darbargarh and also arrange fairs at Chhota Udaipur and the Rajpipla hills. Dangs Darbar, Satpura and north Gujarat are full of fairs even after Holi.
Holi in Gujarat is also known as Hulosani. They light Holika with the fire brought from the temple of Mata. People offer, raw mangoes, coconut, corn, toys made of sugar, khoya to the Holika. The ash from the pyre of Holika is used in the preparation of idols of goddess Amba. Young women wishing for a handsome groom decorate these idols with flowers.
In Jaisalmer and Banswara, people throw stones at each other. It is said that, women throw stones at men and the man who bleeds the most is considered lucky.
Young boys and girls move in tolis( processions). Boys doused in coloured water make pyramids. Hundreds of people participate and hundreds of on-lookers gather. This is performed to break the pot full of buttermilk tied on a rope at a height. This tradition originated from the legend of Lord Krishna who used to steal buttermilk from from any house in his village. They also put prizes on the pot. The on-lookers throw water over the human pyramids. The person who breaks the pot is crowned the Holi King of the year
Madhya Pradesh celebrate Holi for Five days, usually in Indore .The festival was started by Marathas, the Holkars who conquered the state. They brought the marathi tradition of playing colours on the fifth day, Rangapanchami. Thus, the last day here is called Pancham Holi
A colourful Holi in Maharashtra is known as Shimga.It is significant in fisherman community. The folk songs, folk dances, colours is the essence of Holi here. People let out their repressed feelings through this dance. People also make an unusual sound by striking their mouth with the back of their hands.
Puranpoli is a sweet exclusively prepared in Maharashtra. People drink sugarcane juice and eat watermelon juice. Rowdiness during Holi is observed in many parts of Maharashtra.
It was on this day that Jijabai, daughter of Lakhooji Jadhav splashed coloured water on young Shahaji, son of Malajirao Bhonsale. Their engagement was announced that day. They were married and later Jijabai gave birth to Shivaji, founder of the great Maratha empire.
In Goa , a procession is carried which plays religious and mythological stories. Here too, Holi is called Shigmotsav, Shigmo. People of Goa perform Naman(collective obeisance ) from the 9th moon day to the full-moon day and avoid non-vegetarian food and alcohol. From the 11th day of Holi, people decorate their door frames with torans( garland). Some village groups wear most colourful dresses and gather at the village temples at the beat of drums and the sound of flutes. They dance and sing in the temple court yard .The 5th day is the day of fun and is called Rangpanchami. Celebrations are different at various places. Usually gulal and neel is used.
In south India Holi is known as Kaman Pandigai , Kamavilas, Kama-dahanam. Here, there are no enormous and loud celebrations but rather there are religious ceremonies.It is generally celebrated to honour Kama Dev. People offer sandalwood mixed with abeer in and Chandan(sandalwood paste) to Holika. Such an act is performed traditionally to honour Kama Deva`s sacrifice and as an act to relieve Kam Dev of his burns. The next day people apply this mixture to their forehead and eat it after mixing it with young leaves and flowers of Mango tree.
In Tamil Nadu, songs sung here are stories of grief at the loss of her husband Kama Deva.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Banjara tribes celebrate Holi in their own way.
The colours which rise in air have flown unrestricted and can be seen the world over. An Indian settling in other part of the world, away from his motherland, tries to remain attached to his country by celebrating different Indian festivals.
Today, Holi is not restricted to the Indian boundaries alone. The U.S., U.K., south Africa, Trinidad and Tobago islands, Surinam, Guyana are few places where Indians along with the citizens of these countries celebrate Holi on ostentatiously.
The colours applied during Holi suggest something. The message clearly stated is to shed the blacks from our lives and take up the yellows, reds and greens. It means to discard the pessimistic view of life and behold the brighter, the golden side.