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Imagine standing in the middle of the crowd where all you can see is a burst of vibrant colors, upbeat dancing, and big smiles on others’ faces. That will be the scene you’ll experience if you attend India’s Festival of Colors, which will happen on March 20 and 21 in most parts of India. Spend the day smearing colorful powder all over your face or at other people’s face while saying “Bura Na Maano Holi Hali,” as described by the website of Tour My India. The festival, which is also referred to as the “festival of love,” lasts for one day and one night, starting in the evening of the full moon day in the month of Falgun. It is called the festival of love because this celebration can unite everyone together — so much so, that they even forget all their personal arguments, resentments, and bad feeling towards each other.
The ancient festival was originally known as Holika, described in religious works as an event celebrated by all Aryans mostly in the Eastern part of India. According to these historical accounts, Holi existed even before Christ was born, and was performed as a special rite performed by married women to bring happiness and well-being to their families. As for the ancient painting and murals, the festival of Holi is described as a joyous scene sculpted in the temple at Hampi. According to the Holi Festival’s website, the scene shows a prince and a princess standing amidst their maids with syringes to drench the royal couple in colored water. This was also supported in a painting from the 16th century and a Mewar painting from 1755. There are also several myths and legends associated with the Holi festival. According to these stories, there was a demon King named Hiranyakashyap who wanted everyone in the kingdom to worship him. But to his dismay, his son, Prahlad, didn’t become a follower and instead worshipped the Lord Naarayana. This angered Hiranyakashap, which made him command his sister to burn Prahlad. However, they were not successful and Prahlad was saved by the grace of God, which then led to the celebration of good over evil through the Holi Festival.
The spirit and celebration of Holi differ from area to area, but the traditions are mostly similar, especially concerning the part where they play with different colors. For Sikhs, they display their physical strength as they gather at Anandpur Sahib to celebrate Holla Mohalla. In Bengal, students decorate their campus with rangolis and carry out Prabhat peris in the morning while wearing their traditional clothing. In the North East, the festival is celebrated for six days, with the highlight being the special Manipuri dance called Thabal Chongba. On the eve of Holi, the evening of bonfires or Holika Dahan takes place as a preparation for the big event. It is a popular tradition that is celebrated across the country, marking the start of the festival. Guests can enjoy the view of the bonfire, which is made from a log of wood placed in prominent areas of the festival.
The highlight of the Holi festival that is observed all over India is the play of colors, where they break a pot to reveal the vibrant powders. According to the website holifestival.org, a pot of buttermilk will be hanged high in the streets while local men form a human pyramid, and the one on the top will have to break the pot using just his head. While this is happening, all the women will keep on singing their Holi folk songs and will throw buckets of water on the streets. The whole country of India is transformed into different vibrant colors to heighten the celebratory fever. Locals don their vibrant clothes while the markets sell colorful and delicious sweets. Aside from that, people in large numbers play Holi in groups, while dancing to their foot tapping and shouting “Holi Nai.”
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