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Holi - The Festival of Colours of Joy, Fun, Festivities, Hope, Love, Harmony ....

Vanita is an engineer-researcher-consultant-artist: an accomplished singer-poetess. She loves to write on Indian Culture and Life.


Introduction to Holi ....

Holi is the ancient Hindu festival / Indian festival celebrated on the Poornima (full-mon day) of the month of Faagun in the Indian / Hindu Lunar calendar that falls during Spring season. It is often called the Festival of Love, the Festival of Colours or the Festival of Spring. The time, the background and the ways of celebrating the festival makes it clear that every name given to the festival is true in its own ride, while also being inclusive of the domains of festivities that the other names highlight.

Holi is celebrated all over India and Nepal, as also in several other countries world-wide among people of Indian origin and lovers of Hindu / Indian traditions, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the West Indies, Mauritius, Fiji, Pakistan, Guyana, Indonesia, Surinam and so on.

At most places, Holi is celebrated for two days. However, it is celebrated for five to seven days or even for a fortnight in some places. While several different traditions of celebrating Holi have evolved, lighting the Holi pyre and offering pooja / prayers to it, playing with colours, preparing special Holi delicacies, merriment to the tunes of Holi songs and dances are common everywhere.


The Background - Why is Holi Celebrated ?

To Commemorate Victory of Prahlad's Faith and Unwavering Devotion : Victory of Good over evil ....

According to Shreemad Bhaagavatam or the Bhaagavata Puraana, Prahlad, the son of the demon king Hiranyakashyapa (also called Hiranyakashyapu) and Kayaadhu was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu (the Hindu Deity of Protection, Preservation and Sustainability of Creation), much to the dislike and disapproval of his father.

Hiranyakashyapa tries hard to dissuade Prahlad from worshiping Lord Vishnu, but in vain. So, he imprisons Prahlad. His attempts to poison Prahlad could not succeed, as Vishnu protects his little devotee. He tries to get Prahlad run over by mad elephants, but again Prahlad escapes.

Then, Hiranyakashyapa plans to burn Prahlad alive. Hiranyakashyapa's sister, Holika had received a boon as a result of a penance that fire would not burn her. Hiranyakashyapa asks Holika to sit on a pyre with Prahlad in her lap, so that the fire set to the pyre could burn Prahlad off to death. On the night of Poornimaa (full moon night) in the month of Faagun, Holika sits on a pyre with little Prahlad sitting in her lap and the pyre is set ablaze. Much against the plan, it so happens that Holika burns down to ashes and Prahlad remains unaffected by the fire.

Thus, the pure, innocent devotion of the little devotee stands victorious before the crooked conspiracies of his evil-minded father.

Then onwards, every year, on the Poornimaa (full moon night) of the month of Faagun , Holi is celebrated to commemorate this victory of devotion, love, faith and hope over evil.

A pyre is lighted and worshipped to commemorate the victory of little Prahlad's devotion. On the next day, people play with colours, eat various sweet delicacies and dance and sing to celebrate further.

Holika Dahan - In Memory of the Great Victory of Devotion - Prahlad survives, while his aunt, Holika burns down to ashes in spite of the boon that fire would not burn her ....

Holika Dahan - In Memory of the Great Victory of Devotion - Prahlad survives, while his aunt, Holika burns down to ashes in spite of the boon that fire would not burn her ....

A Typical Holi Bonfire with people offering prayers and pooja ....

A Typical Holi Bonfire with people offering prayers and pooja ....

Another Reason for Holi Celebration : The God of Love comes back to life ....

On the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha (brighter fortnight, meaning from full moon to new moon day) of the month of Maagha as per the Indian / Hindu Lunar calendar, that falls around the end of January to middle of February as per Gregorian calendar, the festival of Vasanta Panchami is celebrated to mark the beginning of Spring - the season of Love and Joy. It is also the day of Saraswati Pooja, as the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom, Maa Saraswati is worshipped on this day to begin the season of Love - Spring - with prayers to be guided by Knowledge and Wisdom on the path of Love ....

According to some ancient Indian scriptures, called the Puraanas dedicated to Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Puraana, Lord Shiva had burnt the Lord of Love, Kaamadeva on the day of Vasanta Panchami. The story goes like this -

Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajaapati, was the consort of Lord Shiva.

Once, Daksha Prajaapati arranges a big Yagya (Pooja / festivity) in which he does not invite Shiva and Sati, as he was not pleased with their marriage.

Sati could not hold herself from going to her father's place. When Shiva tries to stop her, she argues that a daughter has the right and responsibility to be at her father's place and does not require a formal invitation to remain present in festivities at her parents' place .... Shiva sends her with some of his Ganas (attendants).

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During the celebrations, Sati finds herself and her husband's honour being avoided / ignored and insulted. Furious, she immolates herself from the fire that sparks out of her Yogic powers, in protest ....

The celebrations turn into destruction .... Shiva, maddened by the grief of the loss of Sati, moves around with Sati's burnt dead body in hands .... It was as if the whole Creation was immersed in grief and darkness ....

To bring Shiva back to Himself, Lord Vishnu sends his Chakra (Discus), which disintegrates Sati's dead body into 51 pieces that fall at different places all across the land below. These 51 places are the 51 Shakti Peethas (the significant shrines and pilgrimage destinations in Shaktism, the Goddess-focused Hindu tradition).

Distressed Shiva slips into deep meditation after this incident. Sati reincarnates as the daughter of Himaalaya and Mainaa named Paarvati. Inspired by Sage Naarada, she performs penance to win Shiva over as her husband.

On the other side, a demon named Taarakaasur who had performed very severe penance to receive a boon that he could be killed only the son of Shiva, started wrecking havoc on innocent lives on the Earth.

The Devas (Divine Beings or Gods) get worried and see that it is imperative to awaken Shiva from his deep meditation, so that His much needed marriage with Paarvati materializes. They request the Lord of Love, Kaamadeva to awaken Shiva. Kaamadev, with his wife Devi Rati and his team of Spring and its beautiful creations cast spells on Shiva. Finally, Kaamadeva shoots his arrow of Love into Shiva's heart and a startled, angry Shiva opens His eyes. The flames from his Third eye (at the center of his forehead, between his eyebrows) burn Kaamadeva to ashes.

The other Devas come to the spot and explain Shiva about the urgencies of the situation. Shiva agrees to marry Paarvati. An aggrieved Rati pleads for bringing her husband Kaamadeva back to life and prays for forty days. It is said that on the full moon night of the succeeding month of Faagun, forty days after Vasanta Panchami, when Kaamadeva was burnt to ashes, Shiva, moved to compassion by Rati's prayers, brings Kaamadeva back to life (or promises his reincarnation and their reunion, as per some texts / scriptures). That was the day of Holi. So, Holi is the festival of Love.

This belief is popular especially in the Southern parts of India (in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh), among devotees of Shiva and Shakti. Here, the lighting of the Holi bonfire is called "Kaamadahanam", meaning incineration of Kaamadeva .... The sacrifice of Kaamadeva is thus prayerfully commemorated.

Aroused from His Deep Meditation, the flames from Lord Shiva's opened up Third Eye burn Kaamadeva ....

Aroused from His Deep Meditation, the flames from Lord Shiva's opened up Third Eye burn Kaamadeva ....

The Symbolism behind incinerating Kaamadeva - Kaamadahanam:

Love is the fundamental and one of the most misunderstood aspects of Life. There are several loopholes all around - mistaking lust for love, infatuation, considering "love" as a means of fulfilling ambitions beyond one's capacity or worthiness or out of a crazy sense of possessiveness or egotism or honour .... Much of this is due to ignorance borne of desires that branch out as lust, greed, hatred, anger, jealousy and so on ....

Kaamadeva is the God of Love, as also of human love and desire ....

Incinerating Kaama symbolizes getting rid of such ignorance, such worldliness as most of us call it, in the name of love.

Fire is considered as the ultimate purifier in almost every religion. Burning to ashes - incineration - symbolizes complete purification. Such an incineration - complete purification - happens due to the opening of the Third Eye of Shiva. The Third Eye is symbolic of Inner Vision, Insight, Wisdom and Knowledge. When this Eye opens, ignorance vanishes, as if flashed away into nothing by a purifying fire ....

A life, a relationship based on pure Love, free of undue worldliness makes for a well-lived, true Life.

On the other side is the genuineness of Love that gets mistaken as lust. That is also a fact of life. Fiery ordeals, gratifying realizations, loving revivals and added strength carve the path of Love and Truth.

Holi Celebrations ....

Lighting the Holi Pyre ....

Wood and cow-dung cakes are used for preparing the Holi pyre.

Offerings into the Holi fire - Abeer, Gulaal, Kumkum, Akshat (rice grains), Haldi (turmeric powder), kapoor (camphor), Ghee (clarified butter used in Indian cuisine), Shree Fala (coconut), pop jowar (sorghum), pop corn, khajoor (date fruit), roasted gram, groundnuts and so on. Up to coconut, the list would be common at most places. The rest of the items may be vary regionally.

A Typical Holi Pyre ...

A Typical Holi Pyre ...

A Typical Holi Pyre ....

A Typical Holi Pyre ....

A Typical Holi Pyre ....

A Typical Holi Pyre ....

Playing with Colours ....

Traditionally, the colours are made from natural ingredients from plants - flowers, leaves and so on. Powdered colours, coloured water or even plain water are used for playing Holi.

Water - coloured or plain - filled in beautiful spray guns of various shapes and sizes called Pichakaaree that are available especially during Holi is sprinkled / sprayed over each other.

Pink and white coloured powders are considered necessary and auspicious for Holi celebrations. Pink coloured powder is called Gulaal and white coloured powder is called Abeer. They are also used as offerings, in general, in Pooja.

People happily apply colours as Tilak (a distinctive spot of colored powder or paste worn on the forehead by Hindu men and women as an ornament or religious symbol) to one another or apply colours on cheeks or sprinkle them on each other.

Abeer-Gulaal and other colours are respectfully offered to the feet of elders / Gurujanas (Guru, parents, teachers, experts and such other revered people) to seek their blessings on Holi.

Overflowing enthusiasm and zeal get expressed as throwing of colours on each other. Scenes of throwing / pouring bucket full of water are also seen at many places. Playing Holi in groups in big shallow tanks full of coloured water have been common at many places.

Holi - the Festival of Colours ....

Holi - the Festival of Colours ....

Holi Celebrations in Vrajbhoomi - Krishna's Birthplace ....

Any talk about Holi celebrations remains incomplete without the mention of Shree Krishna's Holi celebrations in Vrajbhoomi during his childhood and adolescence. Vrajboomi (also called Vraj or Braj or Brij or Brajbhoomi or Brijbhoomi) is a region in India on both sides of the Yamuna river with its centre at Mathura-Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh state.

The Holi celebrations in many parts of this region continue for around a fortnight.

Most of the Holi songs called Hori Geet describe celebrations of Holi in Vrajbhoomi by Raadhaa-Krishna and the Gopa-Gopis. There are many types of Holi Songs popular all over India, in various languages and in Indian Classical, Semi-classical and Folk Music styles. Most of them have as there central theme, the Holi celebrations by Raadhaa-Krishna and the Gopa-Gopis in Vrajbhoomi.

Picture of Holi Celebrations by Raadhaa-Krishna and Gopa-Gopis in Vrajbhoomi ....

Picture of Holi Celebrations by Raadhaa-Krishna and Gopa-Gopis in Vrajbhoomi ....

Holi Songs ....

Holi celebrations invariably include Music - singing and dancing to the tunes of Holi Songs, typically called Hori Geet.

There are folk songs in various regions of North India in local dialects, like Vraj Bhaashaa, Bhojpuri, Maithili, etc. that are specially for Holi celebrations, most of them devoted to Krishna. In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, very musical celebrations of Holi take place in the form of the Baithki Holi (singing of Raaga Based classical songs in temples, essentially spiritual in tone and feel), the Khari Holi (folk form, popular in rural areas) and the Mahila Holi (ladies special celebrations). In Punjab, theatrical performances called Swang or Nautanki are popular during Holi. Some areas also celebrate Holi with Wrestling matches. Wrestling is a very popular sport in the states of Punjab and Haryana.

In the Northeast of India, in Assam, Holi and Bihu Songs for the occasion, which is called Fakuwa / Doul here, are performed in groups. Most of them are in praise of / about Krishna. In another Northeastern state Manipur, during Holi celebrations that last for around six days, the youth perform a fold dance called Thabal chongba at night.

In Bengal, melodious songs for Dola Jatraa (Swing Festival) are sung along with dancing and playing with colours, as the procession carrying idols of Raadhaa and Krishna in a decorated palanquin move around the village / town / city areas. In Odisha also, Holi is celebrated with Dola Jatraa (Swing Festival) of Lord Jagannatha.

In the Southern state of Karnataka, at a place called Sirsi, Holi is celebrated with a special folk dance called Bedara Vesha. In Telangana, children sing folk songs called Jajiri during the ten days long Holi celebrations. In Tamil Nadu, Holi is celebrated as Panguni Uthiram, the celebration of blossoming of Love and Marriage.

In Gujarat, folk music and comedy festivals called Dayaro are organized to celebrate Holi, especially at locations where shrines of Shree Krishna are located, such as the famous pilgrim place Dwarka.

Dancing is spontaneous during Holi Celebrations ....

Dancing is spontaneous during Holi Celebrations ....

Holi Songs from Hindi movies ....

Holi is a very popular festival in the Hindi (and in general Indian) film and entertainment community. The message of harmony and love, forgetting all differences of cast, status and other discriminations prevailing in the society, complaints / vengeance among equals and reuniting is very prominently expressed in most Holi songs.

There are several very beautiful, melodious songs on Holi in Hindi films. Some of them are listed below (links given) :

  • A very famous Holi song from the superhit Hindi film "Sholay" : Holi Ke Din Dil Khil Jaate Hein .... Singers - Lata Mangeshkar, Kishor Kumar and chorus.
  • Holi song from the film "Mashaal" : Holi Aayee, Holi Aayee Re .... : Singers - Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Mahendra Kapoor and chorus.
  • A very popular Holi song from the film "Silsila" starring superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya Bachchan, Rekha and Sanjeev Kumar .... : Rang Barase Bheege Chunarwaalee .... : Singer - Amitabh Bachchan and chorus
  • A beautiful Holi song with good combinations of folk forms - touches of North Indian, Gujarati and Marathi folk styles, beautiful dance by actress Sandhya (two in one presentation - one side of the costume for lady and the other for a man, worth seeing), with elephant in it .... from the classic film "Navarang" : Are Ja Re Hat Natkhat .... Singers: Chitalkar Ramachandran (also the Music Director), Asha Bhosale, Mahendra Kapoor and chorus
  • Holi song from the classic superhit "Mother India" : Holi Aayee Re Kanhaaee .... Singers - Shamshad Begum, Lata Mangeshkar and chorus
  • A Holi song with Rajasthani background - lyrics, costumes, place and music showing a beautiful glimpse of the colourful brightness of that state from the film ": Aayo Phaganio .... Singers - Vinod Rathod, Udit Narayan, Sadhana Sargam and chorus
  • Holi song showing celebrations in the mountain regions of the North India from the 1971 film "Paraayaa Dhan": Holi Re Holi ....
  • An old Hindi Film song describing Holi celebrations in Vraj by Nandalaalaa (the son of Nand) Krishna .... the message of harmony also conveyed in the song : Nandalaalaa Holi Khele .... Singers - Mukesh, Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle and chorus
  • Holi celebrations in rural North India shown in this song from the film "Nadiyaa Ke Paar" : Jogiji Haan .... Singers - Chandrani Mukherjee, Hemlata, Jaspal Singh and chorus
  • Modern Holi celebrations in urban India shown in this song (a couple of lines in the second paragraph in Punjabi) from the film "Aakhir Kyon" : Saat Rang Mein Khel Rahi Hai Dilwalon Kee Tolee .... Singers: Anuradha Paudwal, Amit Kumar and chorus
  • A Holi song that has Gujarati Garba rhythm in it from the film "Kaamchor" : Mal De Gulaal Mohe .... Singer : Lata Mangeshkar, Kishor Kurmar and chorus
  • A very beautiful Holi song - touches of Marathi (from Maharashtra state) folk music are there in this song, costume and dance performance by the actress are also of Marathi style - from the film "Phagun" : Piya Sang Khelo Holi Phagun Aayo Re .... Singer - Lata Mangeshkar and chorus.
  • Holi song mentioning the Holi celebrations by Shree Raama in Avadh from the movie "Baghban" : Hori Khele Raghuveera Avadh Mein .... Singers - Amitabh Bachchan, Alka Yagnik, Sukhwinder Singh, Udit Narayan
Picture of Holi song from the movie "Sholay" ....

Picture of Holi song from the movie "Sholay" ....

Holi Delicacies ....

Different Holi delicacies are prepared in different regions. I am touching upon some popular ones here ....

In North India, Gujia - a crescent shaped deep fried Indian sweet stuffed with Mawa (a coagulated milk solid) and nuts - is the most famous Holi Delicacy : Gujia Recipe

Thandai is a Holi drink prepared in a variety of ways. It is a chilled almond-flavoured beverage and is most sought after when the temperatures soar. Here is a typical popular recipe - Thandai Recipe

In Maharashtra, Puran Poli - the most famous Maharashtrian treat – that has Chana dal (split chickpeas) stuffing in wheat flour rotis is prepared to celebrate Holi : Puran Poli

Dahi Wada - Popular Urad dal (split black lentils) Wadas served with chilled yogurt, sprinkled with Cumin powder, Chilli powder and sweet Chutney : Dahi Wada Recipe

Malpua - A traditional Indian sweet – pancake like dessert, cooked in Ghee and often served soaked in sugar syrup : Malpua Recipe

Kachori - is a deep-fried dumpling which is a very popular street food. It can be filled with a variety of stuffing : Chana Dal Kachori Recipe

Holi Delicacies ....

Holi Delicacies ....

Summing it up ....

Thus, Holi is a joyous festival celebrated during Spring in India that spreads ....

H - Happiness and Hope

O - Oneness and Optimism

L - Love and Laughter

I - Inspiration and Inclusivity

I wrote this article in response to the suggestions received from my co-authors and poets - Brother Manatita and Brenda Arledge - to write about the festival of Holi. I thank both of them for inspiring me to write this. I hope you all enjoy reading this article.

- Vanita Thakkar (09th April, 2021)

Happy Holi !!

Happy Holi !!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Vanita Thakkar


Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 11, 2021:

Thanks, Devika for your lovely comment. I agree with you - festivals bring joy and create great memories.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 11, 2021:

Vanita Thakkar This is a beautiful hub that gives hope and everything else in a positive manner. Festivals are joyous and memorable

Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 10, 2021:

Thanks, Ann. Happy that you liked it.

Yes, we get to learn new things from each other’s writings. That’s joyful!

Ann Carr from SW England on April 10, 2021:

I read this before but couldn't find it in the feed, so I'm glad I've found it now.

Great insight into something I was unaware of. It's so interesting to learn of festivals around the world. Thanks for sharing.


Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 10, 2021:

Thanks, Misbah. I know that you are from Pakistan. I also know about the popularity of Hindi movies in Pakistan. I am not very fond of watching movies, especially the newer ones, but I have always loved music .... Convincing me to go for a movie was once a real difficult task for my family, friends and relatives (Ha, Ha ....) Now, it is easier (Ha, Ha....). I was not a regular audience of TV programmes as well, so I have not watched Pakistani serials, but I have friends who were very fond of them ....

True, there is a vast, vast scope of improvement in handling the matters that are called "Politics" ....

I am happy that you enjoyed reading about Holi.

The song you have mentioned from the recent movie War is an example of the contemporary "440 Volt Jhatakaa" songs (Ha, Ha ....) They are very popular these days, especially among youngsters .... Such songs / music have their own charm, though short-lived .... Enjoy !! Happy Holi to you, your brother and your family.

We are heading towards the Chaitra Navaratri now. Happy Navaratri in advance.

Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, dear Peggy. I am happy that you got to know more about Holi.

India is a land of festivities. Some more festivals are arriving - the Chaitra Navaratri - nine day festival of worshipping the Divine Mother of Universe, Maa Aadya Shakti, starting from coming Tuesday. The first day is celebrated as the New Year Day in many parts of India. The nineth day happens to be the Birthday of Lord Shree Raama, the day before which is my birthday as per our Hindu calendar.

Love to hear from you. Have a great weekend.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on April 09, 2021:

Hi Vanita,

I am a Pakistani, I hope you know that, Pakistani people love to see Bollywood movies, I sometimes wish, if there were no Politics in the world. It would be much better place to live in. I have grown up while watching Bollywood movies. I have heard Indian people love to see Pakistani Drama serials as well.

I know about the festival of Holi, but didn't knew about the history behind it. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the read. From last few days my younger brother is listening a Bollywood song from the movie WAR named Jai Jai Shiva. He loves the dance in it as well.

As you shared about Holi so I would say, " carefree and wild, let the colors fly." Happy Holi!!

Blessings and Peace to you dear friend

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2021:

Hi Vanita,

I had read something about the festival of Holi from another author, but you have given me even more information about this event. From bonfires to dances, to songs, to celebrating food, and more...happy Holi! Thanks for this article!

Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, Chitrangadaji. Compiling the details took some time. However, I enjoyed working it out. Happy that you liked it. Best regards to you.

Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, Davis. Happy to hear that you enjoyed knowing about Holi.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on April 09, 2021:

Well written Vanita. You have covered almost everything about the beautiful festival of Holi—the stories, the food, how it’s celebrated in different parts of India and so on. I enjoyed reading your narration.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

DW Davis from Eastern NC on April 09, 2021:

I truly enjoyed learning about these traditions and festivals. Thank you for sharing.


Vanita Thakkar (author) on April 09, 2021:

Thanks, Bill for reading and commenting. Yours is the first response. Much appreciated.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

I loved learning about this. Thank you for the explanation!

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