About Holi

in Vaishnava Theology, Hiranyakashipu is the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra". Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.

Holi is a very important festival.In this festival main emphasis is laid on the burning of Holika or lighting of Holi. The origin of the traditional lighting of Holi is attributed by some to the burning of demonesses like Holika, Holaka and Putana who troubled little children or to the burning of Madan according to others.

Regional Rituals And Celebrations

Dol Purnima (Rang Panchami), the festival of colour is celebrated in all over the country with great festivity and joy. On this day, people come out wearing pure white clothes and gather together in a common place where they play it with gay abandon.

In Shantiniketan the abode of Tagore celebrates Dol in a unique way. It welcome the season 'Basanta' with music and dance and early morning 'Path'. Young girls wear yellow saris and perform dance in around the 'ashram' to the song of Tagore's 'Khol dar khol'.

Bengalis celebrate Holi as Dol Yatra or the swing festival where the icons of Krishna and Radha are placed on swings and women sing devotional songs, throw colors and 'abir' on them and perform dances as devotees take turns to swing them

Traditional delicacies are prepared in advance and served while playing Dol Purnima. People visit each others houses and savor the delicious dishes, be it the famous Rossogolla or the preparation of 'Malpoa' (a dessert made of flour, milk, sugar and dry fruits).

The colour, noise and entertainment that accompanies the celebration of Dol Purnima bears witness to the feelings of oneness and a sense of brotherhood and goodwill. The spring air is still cool, the water cold, but revelers make a special punch of an intoxicant called bhang, which is mixed in milk, to add to the festivities.

In Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, this day is celebrated with special puja and the traditional custom of worshipping Lord Krishna.

The people of Orissa celebrate Holi in a similar manner but here the idols of Jagannath, the deity of the Jagannath Temple of Puri, replace the idols of Krishna and Radha.

Festival of colours, Holi is celebrated with great fanfare in the Gujarat state of India. Falling on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, Holi is a major Hindu festival and marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop. Bonfire is also lit in the main squares of the villages, localities and colonies.

People collect at the time of bonfire and celebrate the event, which is symbolic of the victory of good over evil by singing and dancing. Tribals of Gujarat celebrate Holi in great enthusiasm and dance around the fire.

In Maharashtra, Holi is mainly associated with the burning of Holika. Holi Paurnima is also celebrated as Shimga. A week before the festival, youngsters go around the locality, collecting firewood and money. On the day of Holi, the firewood is arranged in a huge pile at a clearing in the locality.

In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household makes an offering of sweets and a complete meal to the fire god. Puran Poli is the main delicacy and children shout " Holi re Holi puranachi poli ". Shimga is associated with the elimination of all evil. Fun of playing with colors traditionally takes place on the day of Ranga Panchami unlike North India where it is done on the second day itself.

Manipuris in northeastern part of India celebrate Holi for six days. Introduced in the eighteenth century with Vaishnavism, it soon merged with the centuries-old festival of Yaosang. Traditionally, youths at night perform a group folk dance called 'thaabal chongba' on the full moon night of Phalgun along with folk songs and rhythmic beats of the indigenous drum.

However, this moonlight party now has modern bands and fluorescent lamps and a bonfire of a thatched hut of hay and twigs is arranged. Boys have to pay money to the girls for playing 'gulal' with them. In Krishna temples, devotees sing devotional songs, perform dances and play 'gulal' wearing traditional white and yellow turbans. On the last day of the festival, large processions are taken out to the main Krishna temple near Imphal where several cultural programs are organized.

North and West India
In North India, Haryana, Maharashtra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by making human pyramids while the girls try to stop them by throwing colored water on them to commemorate the pranks of Krishna and cowherd boys to steal butter and 'gopis' trying to stop them.

At this time the men soaked with colors go out in large procession to mock alert people of the Krishna who might come to steal butter in their homes. The boy who finally manages to break the pot is crowned the Holi King of the Year for that community.

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 in a mock rage as they try to drench them with colors and in turn the brother-in-law bring sweetmeats for her in the evening.

South India
Holi down south is largely an outcome of the influence of media, movies, marketing and migration. But in Kochi(Cochin) the Gujarathi and other North Indian communities based in Mattancherry celebrate Holi with original fervor. In Mattancherry area of Kochi, there are 22 different communities living together in harmony.

Moreover, the Gaud Sarawat Brahmins(GSB)who speak Konkani also celebrate Holi in Cherlai area of West Kochi. They locally call it as Ukkuli in Konkani or Manjal Kuli in Malayalam. It is held around the majestic Konkani temple called Gosripuram Thirumala temple. This year Ukkuli will be celebrated on March 23, 2008 in Cherlai. In Hyderabad, Holi is celebrated with great fervor, it is celebrated over 2 days.

Civilians as well as the Indian security force officers celebrate Holi in Kashmir. Holi, a high-spirited festival to mark the beginning of the harvesting of the summer crop, is marked by the throwing of colored water and powder and singing and dancing.


The Holi bonfire

The burning of fuel wood to create the bonfire for Holika dahan presents another serious environmental problem. According to a news article,[9] studies done in the state of Gujarat reveal that each bonfire uses around 100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit in the state of Gujarat just for one season, this leads to a staggering amount of wood.

Groups such as Sadvichar Parivar are now advocating one symbolic community fire, rather than several smaller bonfires across the city as a way to reduce wood consumption. Others are also suggesting that these fires be lit using waste material rather than wood.