Holi-the very name reminds us of colours, joy, fun and bonfire. It is celebrated in both North India and the South and has secured great social, mythological and cultural significance.
Holy is celebrated on the Full Moon day of the Phalgun month and it heralds the spring season. People spend a whale of a time on this occasion with all fun, joy, and happiness by setting fire on the effigy of Holika, dancing and singing around the bonfire and exchanging sweets and greetings. Holika Dahan is the major aspect of celebrating Holi. It signifies the victory of good over evil.
Holika is the name of the sister of Hiranyakashp who was the father of the famous Vishnu devotee Prahalatd.Though Hiranyakashp hailed himself as the king of all the worlds, his son did not budge to him and worshipped Maha Vishnu as the superior being in the Universe. Unable to tolerate his son’s disobedience, Hiranyakashp ordered his sister Holika to sit in the fire with Prahalad so that he could be burnt alive. (Holika had the nature of not being harmed by fire). But Prahalad remained safe due to the grace of Lord Vishnu.
People burn the effigy of Holika on the eve of Holi to show off their anger against her evil deed and they also keep the effigy of Prahalad without harming it to display the triumph of good over evil.
Another major legend about Holi is that of Radha and Krishna - how they played with each other by sprinkling colourful water on each other with much delight on the day of Holi.
The occasion of Holi is related to the killing of the fierce ogress Poothana by Krishna when she tried to feed him poisonous milk. This happened when Krishna was growing as a babe in Gokulam. It also is reflective of the atrocities of Dhundhi who was torturing the children in the kingdom of Raghu. Children drove her away on the day of Holi with their pranks. That is why even today children run around the Holika Dahan and play pranks and abuse one another in memory of this incident.
In South India, Kamadeva Dahan is related to the day of Holi. Kamadeva in his mission to bring Shiva to worldly affairs shot an arrow against him. When His deep meditation was disturbed by this act of Kamadeva, the Lord got enraged and burnt him with His third eye. Celebrating this Dahan on the day of Holi is the custom of the South Indians.
Holi basically brings out the moral that good wins over the evil and people should realize this in their life so as to lead a life that is bereft of bad acts. As it is the time of expecting a good yield from the paddy fields, people find Holi an occasion to celebrate and rejoice.
Holi is a common festival which is celebrated by non-Hindus also. Likewise, it brings no demarcation between the rich and the poor in its festivity as anyone can sprinkle colour on any other person on the day.
It is the time of transition from winter to the spring.In order to drive away their laziness created by the cold winter, people need a festival like Holi and thus they take sweets and take drinks like Thandai. Applying colours on the body promotes good health and taking the ash of Holika Dahan and wearing it on the forehead and mixing Chandana with young Mango leaves to eat are the Holi activities that actually promote health.Further, the fire in the Holika Dahan destroys the bacteria that crop up during the transition of winter into spring.
So, Holi is more than an occasion filled with fun. It shows the victory of the good over the bad and also helps people spring into action after the cold winter days.