Holi is the festival of colours. It is the celebration of Good over Evil. In the northern part of India, Holi is celebrated with zest and with an enthusiasm unparallel to any other festival in India. In most parts of North India the day Holi is celebrated is declared as a 'Holi'day and people are seen on the streets throwing coloured powder at each other. People of all age groups and of both the sexes get involved in this sport of throwing coloured powder and splashing water (with colour powder mixed) at each other. It is celebrated in a very grand scale and is among India's premier festivals.
Why is Holi celebrated?
The Myth :
According to Hindu Mytholgy, the all powerful king Haranya Kashyap, who was a ruthless and cruel ruler, was told by a soothsayer that he will be destroyed by his own son, Prahlad. Fearing this the king tried to kill Prahlad several times and with several different methods but was unsuccessful in all attempts.
Finally he asked his sister to hold Prahlad in her lap and sit inside of the burning flames (his sister had a boon from the Gods that fire would not harm her). When she held Prahlad in her arms and sat in the fire, she was burnt to ashes but Prahlad remained unscathed. This is how the victory of Good over Evil is celebrated till today.
The Human Factor :
Although Holi has a mythological viewpoint in terms of celebration, it has also the natural viewpoint. Another aspect of the celebration of Holi is the advent of the Harvest and the Spring seasons. A major part of North India whose main crop is Wheat, is harvested during the months of February and March. It also denoted the end of the harsh winters and the arrival of the ever-loving season of Love, sunshine and flowering, the season of Spring.
How is Holi celebrated ?
A huge bonfire is lit up on the day of the the festival which symbolises the evil sister of Haranya Kashyap and in the middle of the fire is placed a plant of sugarcane which is not consumed by the fire and stays intact. The sugar cane symbolises the Good side i.e., the son the evil king, Prahlad. This is the ritual of Holi and in India it is called the Burning of Holi.
After this ritual the people gathered around the fire start the celebration by singing songs of devotion and throw colour powder on each other in happy abandon and a big feast of eating, dancing and drinking of the traditional brew called "Bhang" is continued throughout the night and over the next few days. "Bhang", an intoxicant, an extract of a plant, powdered and ground to form a paste. This paste is then mixed with cold milk along with several other herbs and dry fruits. When ready this drink is then called "Thandai Bhang".
Added by reck on September 20, 2005