Recent Posts



No tags yet.


Holi is an ancient festival celebrated on the day after the last full moon of Phalguna, the last month of the Hindu calendar (between late February and early March). Traditionally, this was a major religious festival celebrated by devotees of Hinduism. Today, however, Holi is celebrated not only by Hindus, but also by non-Hindus in South Asia, as well as peoples of various communities around the world. The popularity of Holi today may be understood when its other name, the ‘Festival of Colors’, is taken into account. One of the features of Holi is the use of colored powders and colored water during the festival. Several days before the celebration itself, markets would be filled with colored powders of every hue for the festival-goers to purchase. Whilst this is the norm today, there are those who still make the colored powders by themselves, usually from flowers, , in their homes.

The coloring of friends and strangers with powder and water is particularly enjoyed by children. Nevertheless, adults also participate enthusiastically in this color fight that begins in the morning of the festival. This color fight seems to be the highlight of Holi, and provides us with the most recognizable images of the festival. In fact, during this celebration, social barriers are broken down, and for a short period of time at least, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, are all on an equal footing. There are perhaps some who are not too comfortable with this idea, and the saying ‘ buranamano, Holi hai! ’ (‘Don’t be offended, it’s Holi!’) is meant explicitly for them. In the tradition of “Braj Lath mar Holi” men living in the Braj region of North India must accept whatever women do to them. One of the common acts is for women to playfully hit the men, who protect themselves with shields.

The Legend of the Demon King: ----- Good Always Triumphs Over Evil Although the festival of Holi is best known today for its party atmosphere, it also has a religious significance. After all, this festival was originally celebrated within a Hindu context. One legend associated with the festival is that of Prahlad and Hiranyakshyap. According to this legend, there once was a powerful demon king by the name of Hiranyakshyap. This demon king resided in Multan, and was virtually indestructible, due to a boon granted to him by Brahma.

Hiranyakshyap grew arrogant, considered himself a god, and demanded everyone to worship him. His son, Prahlad, however, was a devotee of Vishnu, and refused to worship his father. As a result, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, the demoness Holika (it is from her name that we get the word ‘Holi’), for her help to get rid of Prahlad. As Holika had received a boon that made her immune to fire, she went into a pyre with Prahlad on her lap, hoping that her nephew would be burnt alive. Prahlad’s devotion to Vishnu, however, saved him, and the demoness was burnt to death . This story is one of the numerous legends associated with the ‘Holika Dahan’ (‘The Burning of Dahan.’) This is a practice that takes place on the eve of Holi, and is also known as the ‘Chhoti Holi’ (‘Small Holi.’) During the ‘Holika Dahan,’ bonfires are lit to commemorate the deliverance of Prahlad from his evil father and aunt. In many parts of India, an effigy of Holika is also burned on the fire. Thus, the ‘Holika Dahan’ is a reminder that good always triumphs over evil.We should be thankful to SRI Krishna and Radha for the Colorful Addition to Holi-- Another legend associated with the festival of Holi is that of Krishna (an avatar of Vishnu) and Radha (a gopi, meaning cow-herd girl.) In this story, the playful Krishna was extremely delighted in applying color on Radha and the other gopis. This prank later became a part of the Holi celebration. In addition, the festival is also a celebration the immortal love between Krishna and Radha. In Vrindavan and Mathura, two cities deeply affiliated with Krishna, the celebration of Holi is spread over a period of 16 days. WHAT IS THE MYSTERY OF HOLI? 15 FACTS-----

1-Life should be full of colors! And each color is meant to be seen and enjoyed separately, for if seen all mixed together, they will appear all black. All the colors like red, yellow, green, etc. should exist side by side and simultaneously be enjoyed together. Similarly, in life, different roles played by the same person should exist peacefully and distinctly inside him.

2-In which ever situation we are in, we should play the corresponding role to the hilt and then life is bound to become colorful! This concept was called 'Varnashram' in ancient India. This meant - everyone, be it a doctor, teacher, father, whoever or whatever, is expected to play their roles with full enthusiasm. Mixing professions will always be counter productive. If a doctor wants to do business, he should run a business separately and secondary to his profession and not make business out of medicine. Keeping these 'containers' of the mind separate and distinct is the secret of a happy life and this is what HOLI teaches.

3-All colors emanate from white, and when mixed again, they become black. When your mind is white and consciousness - pure, peaceful, happy and meditative, different colors and roles emerge. We get the strength to play various roles with full sincerity against the background. We have to dip into our consciousness time and again. If we only look inwards and play around with colors outside of us, we are bound to find blackness all over again. Between roles we have to take deep rests, in order to play each role sincerely. 4-Now, the biggest impediment to deep rest is desire. Desire means stress. Even petty desires cause high stress - the higher goals give relatively less botheration! Desire tortures the mind at times.

5-The only way out is to focus attention on the desire and surrender it. This act of focusing awareness or sight on desire or Kama is called 'kamakshi'. With awareness, desire loses its grip and surrender happens and then nectar flows out from within.

6-The goddess, Kamakshi, holds a sugarcane stem in one hand and a flower in the other. The sugar-cane stem is so hard and has to be squeezed in order to obtain sweetness, while the flower is soft and collecting nectar from it is so easy. This truly represents life, which indeed has a little of both! It is far easier to obtain this bliss from the inside than it is to try to extract pleasure from the outside world - which needs a lot more effort.

7-The word purana comes from the Sanskrit word 'pura nava', which means 'that which is new in the city'. It is a new way of presenting things. Puranas are full of colorful illustrations and stories. On the surface they may appear to be mere fantasy, but actually they contain subtle truths.

8-Hiranyakashyap symbolizes one who is gross. Prahalad embodies innocence, faith and bliss/joy. The spirit cannot be confined to love material only. Hiranyakashyap wanted all the joy to come from the material world. It did not happen that way. The individual jivatma cannot be bound to the material forever. It’s natural to eventually move towards Narayana, one's higher self.

9-Holika stands for the past burdens that try to burn Prahalad's innocence. But Prahlad, so deeply rooted in Narayana Bhakthi could burn all past impressions (sanskaras) and joy springs up with new colors. Life becomes a celebration. Burning the past, you gear up for a new beginning. Your emotions, like fire, burn you. But when there is a fountain of colors, they add charm to your life. In ignorance, emotions are a bother; in knowledge, the same emotions add colors

10-Each emotion is associated with a color- Anger with red, jealousy with green, vibrancy and happiness with yellow, love with pink, vastness with blue, peace with white, sacrifice with saffron and knowledge with violet.

11-There are also a few other legends associated with the festival - like the legend of Shiva and Kaamadeva and those of Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana. All depict triumph of good over evil - lending a philosophy to the festival.

12-Young Krishna is known to be very playful and mischievous. The story goes that as a child, Krishna was extremely jealous of Radha's fair complexion since he himself was very dark. One day, Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about the injustice of nature which made Radha so fair and he so dark. To pacify the crying young Krishna, the doting mother asked him to go and colour Radha's face in whichever colour he wanted. In a mischievous mood, naughty Krishna heeded the advice of mother Yashoda and applied colour on her beloved Radha's face; Making her one like himself.

13-There is also a legend to explain Krishna's dark complexion. It so happened that once a demon attempted to kill infant Krishna by giving him poisoned milk. Because of which Krishna turned blue. But Krishna did not die and the demon shriveled up into ashes. The beautiful scene of Krishna's prank in which he played colour with Radha and other gopis has been made alive in myriad forms in a number of paintings and murals.

14-Somehow, the lovable prank of Krishna where he applied colour on Radha and other gopis using water jets called pichkaris gained acceptance and popularity. So much so that it evolved as a tradition and later, a full-fledged festival. Till date, use of colours and pichkaris is rampant in Holi. Lovers long to apply colour on their beloveds face and express their affection for each other.

15-This legend is wonderfully brought alive each year all over India, particularly in Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon-the places associated with Krishna and Radha. In fact, the entire country gets drenched in the colour waters when it is time for Holi and celebrate the immortal love of Krishna and Radha. In some states of India, there is also a tradition to place the idols of Radha and Krishna in a decorated palanquin, which is then carried along the main streets of the city. All this while, devotees chant Krishna's name, sing devotional hymns and dance .


That’s because one of Holi’s many associations is with the legend of Radha and Krishna – one of the most intense legends of kama or love in our mythology ever. Dance of love “Krishna is called the purna avatar – he has all the 16 attributes of the perfect man,” The Playful Divine (also published in an abridged form as The Book of Krishna), among other books. “These include shringar, or sensuousness. Rama does not have this attribute – he has only 13 attributes where Krishna has all 16.” Krishna always had the element of sensuousness in his makeup – the tale of the smitten gopis and the ras leela, the heady, love-struck dance between him and the gopis, is very, very old. “Nothing in Hindu mythology is random,” says Varma. “There are four elements in life – dharma, artha, kama and moksha, and the ras illustrates the element of kama.” But it was never about pure hedonism, Varma adds. “The ras was a spontaneous response to the world in autumn, when the harvest was in, the fields were lush, the cattle were well fed, the flowers were blooming… that was when Krishna played the flute and all the senses came together. And the gopis spontaneously danced to that music on the cool sands of the Yamuna in the garden of Vrindavan, each imagining that she was special to Krishna…” All this while, however, there was no Radha. There were only Krishna and the gopis. Radha came into the legend much, much later. “I believe she was created by the poet Jayadev in the 12th century CE in his Gita Govinda,” says Varma. “All of the earlier texts spoke of ras leela with Krishna and a group of gopis, but there was no counter-erotic figure to Krishna in the form of a single woman. I think Radha was created by popular demand.” Divine intervention With the legend now centred around the intense love between Radha and Krishna, the association with Holi seemed inevitable. “In a Hindu marriage, the role models are Rama and Sita,” says Varma. “But in a festival, especially one like Holi where the interaction between the sexes is socially sanctioned, the role models would be Radha and Krishna. This would give that social sanction a divine sanction.” So is there a connection between the Radha-Krishna legend and Holi? If we were to go by the really ancient texts, not really. Though the story goes that the festival of Holi was created when dark-skinned Krishna, jealous of Radha’s fair complexion, smeared her with colour, the truth is, there is really no connection between Krishna’s ras leela – an autumn event – and Holi, a spring event, says Varma. But the sensuousness and heightened emotion of the ras together with the (relatively new) Radha-Krishna legend worked very well for Holi. It gave the festival that divine sanction.