Holi Festival Of Colours – History And Tradition

Holi Festival Of Colours – History And Tradition

February 22, 2014FestivalHoliIndia3778Views

Holi, also known as Holi Festival Of Colours Or simply as Festival of Colours has its roots in Holika. It is basically a series of festivals that have descriptions in really early religious themed work like Kathaka-Grhya-Sutras and Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-Sutras. Holi seemed to have been celebrated by every Aryan in India’s Eastern part.

Historians agree that the Holi Festival was reality hundreds of years before Jesus Christ. However, as time passed, festival meaning changed. While in the beginning it was a married women special rite in order to have well being and happiness, nowadays the meaning is different.


Holi Festival Of Colours
By Steven Gerner [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Inscriptions And Texts References

The Holi Festival has mentions in several ancient inscriptions and texts like Narad Purana or in Vedas. It is also mentioned in a very old stone inscription, Jaimini Mimansa, and in King Harsha’s Ratnavali. Holikotsav was mentioned in the historical memories of Ulbaruni and there are many other Muslim writers that mentioned and celebrated the festival.

Ancient paintings and murals also have references to Holi. Most of the murals and paintings in medieval India will feature some sort of reference to Holi. The most known example is Mewar, which shows Maharana and his courtiers.

Mythology And Legends

In various parts of the country, especially Orissa and Bengal, Holi Purnima is seen as a celebration of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Birthday. However, the world holi is translated as burning. With such a meaning, it is obvious that there are different legends that would explain its meaning. The one that is prominent is that of demon king Hiranyakashyap.

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The legend sees the king wanting every single person in the kingdom to worship him. The problem was that Prahlad, his son, become a Lord Naarayana devotee. Holika, his sister, was commanded by the demon king to enter blazing fire while holding Prahlad. Since Holika could not be damaged by fire, it seemed to make sense. However, the boon that helped her remain unharmed when entering the fire would only work when she was alone. Prahlad ended up being saved by god because of the devotion he showed.

Other legends that are associated with the Holi Festival Of Colours include that of Shiva and Kaamadeva, Ogress Dhundhi with Pootana and that of Lord Krishna.


Shop selling colours for Hol


Holi Traditions

One thing that few people know is that Holi is celebrated with the use of many different names in the country. Traditions do vary from ne region to the next but colors do appear as the common element.

The regions where you will want to go if you want to have a really enthusiastic and charming experience are those linked with the childhood and birth of Lord Krishna: Barsana, Nandgaon, Vrindavan and Mathura. Barsana sees Holi celebrated as Lathmaar Holi. Barsana women will give Nandgaon men a really tough time as they want to play Holi with the women. Unlucky captives are dressed in female attires and beat but that is all within festival spirit.

The breaking the pot tradition is most likely the one that is the most enjoyable during Holi. Much fan fair will celebrate it in Gujarat and Maharashtra. A buttermilk pot is hung really high on streets. The men will form a humongous pyramid. The one that sits on the top will break that buttermilk pot with the use of his head. At the same time, women will sing Holi folk songs while throwing water. Everything about this tradition is linked to Lord Krishna and the fact that he was really fond of the use of buttermilk. He actually used to steal it from the village.

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The really dignified Holi Festival celebration will be found in Bengal state. The Vishwa Bharti University basically founded a special tradition that sees Holi being celebrated as Sprint Festival or Basant Utsav. The students will decorate campus areas with the use of complicated rangolis and then do prabhat pheris during the morning. Young girls and boys dressed in traditional costumes will sing songs that are composed by Gurudev. Viewers always gather in a really large number. Bengal also sees the celebration of the festival of colors as Dol Yatra. Krishna and Radha idols are seen on decorated palanquins.

Holi for Sikhs is based on a display of military prowess and physical strength. Men gather in Anandpur Sahib right after Holi day in order to celebrate what is known as Hola Mohalla. This is a tradition that began with the last Sikh religion Guru, Gobind Singh ji. A religiously carrying forward is still seen today.

If you are in the country’s North Eastern area, you will see that the Manipuris will celebrate Holi for 6 days without stopping. Yaosang Festival is found here and it is connected with Holi thanks to the Vaishnavism introduction in the 18th century. The special Manipuri dance known as Thabal Chongba is basically the festival’s highlight and if you are in the area, you should not miss it since it is quite entertaining.

Variation – The Basis Of The Modern Holi Festival

Besides what was already mentioned above, there are many other different ways in which this festival is currently celebrated. There are various innovative and unique Holi playing styles that appear in different cities, villages and states. It is basically impossible to talk about absolutely all of them. The one similar that is obvious is what is referred to as the Holi spirit. People are brought together and that is the one thing that really counts. While variations do exist, the entire festival is a happy one that is celebrated through dance and well being.

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If you plan to travel to India in order to celebrate the Holi Festival of Colours, make sure that you learn all that you can about the actual celebrations and traditions that are reality in the area where you will go. Alternative, plan a route that will take you through many different regions so that you can experience as much as possible from this unique culture. While Holi is also celebrated in other countries, India is definitely the place to be.



Boris Dzhingarov graduated University of National and World Economy with major marketing. He has deep knowledge in SEO and Blog management. He loves to write finance and business related articles as well.

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