Holi – The Most Popular Festival of India
The festival of colors, Holi–also called Phagwa (Bhojpur), Holla Moholla (Punjab), and Boshonto Utsav (West Bengal)–is perhaps the most popular festival of India. It is celebrated mainly by the Hindus (though not restricted to them), in the spring season.
Holi is celebrated in certain other countries also such as Nepal, UK, Guyana and Trinidad even though not on the same scale and magnitude as in India. In India, the festival of colors is celebrated with much joy and gay abandon throughout the length and breadth of the country–especially in Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Punjab and Delhi.
Majority of the people celebrate the festival of colors by dousing each other with buckets of colored water and by throwing color-filled balloons at each other. But some people–especially in Kolkata and the adjoining areas-maybe, due to socio-cultural reasons, celebrate the festival of Holi in a somewhat passive and easy manner.
At the time of Holi, special Holi songs are sung, lip-smacking dishes and sweets such as Gujhia (Fried pastry filled with an aromatic nuts mixture) prepared and gifts exchanged. A special drink, called Thandai– sometimes containing bhang–is prepared and enjoyed by the common revelers that make the festival truly riotous, though highly enjoyable.
Legend has it that Prahlad–the son of Hirankashyap–was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This much irked his father who asked his sister Holika, also called Holaka and Putana, to kill his son. As Holika was blessed with a boon that allowed her to enter fire and escape unhurt, she entered a blazing fire along with Prahlad. But, while she was killed, Prahlad survived as Lord Vishnu himself came to his rescue.
Since then, to celebrate Prahlad’s victory and the victory of good over evil, a day before the main festival of Holi, people lit bonfires called Holika at public places. On the occasion of Holika, in the Northern India, special gram flour and curd dish (Dahi Besan Curry) is prepared which is first offered to the fire god and then relished with family and friends.
Another legend suggests that Lord Krishna loved playing and having fun with his consorts and dousing them with colored water. Over the years, this practice caught people’s fancy and they started celebrating it as Holi.
The festival celebrates brotherhood and spirit of life, and inspires people to shed their shackles of religious and caste bigotries to enjoy the purity of life like never before. Holi also expounds the virtues of being truthful and leading a virtuous and righteous life. No wonder, Holi is the most popular and widely celebrated festival of India.