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Why Do We Play Holi? What Does The Festival Mean?

One minute read. Written by a grade 6 student (archived piece – first published in March 2020).

Holi is the celebration of good over evil. Like many of our festivals it also celebrates the beginning of spring and a good harvest and the end of winter.

By I Kid You Not , in Did You Know Festivals , at March 10, 2020 Tags: , , , , ,

One minute read. Written by a grade 6 student (archived piece – first published in March 2020).

A quick introduction to Holi

Holi is the celebration of good over evil. Like many of our festivals, it celebrates the beginning of spring and a good harvest, and the end of winter.

Usually, it gets hot after Holi!

It starts on the evening of Purnima (that is a full moon). The first evening is known as Holika Dahan – when the bad Holika is burnt. And the next day is when we play Holi with colours. Both these days have different stories.

First about Holika – the day before Holi…

Who was Holika? Why do we burn fire on this day?

This is how the story goes..

The bad king Hiranyakashipu….

There was once a king, whose name was Hiranyakashipu (in Sanskrit Hiranya means gold and kashipu means soft cushion – so his name kind of means, clothed in gold, or wearing gold.)

He liked wealth a lot and he was not a nice person.

King Hiranyakashipu had a blessing from Lord Brahma that made it almost impossible for him to be killed and also gave him special powers – he could not be killed by a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (rocket type weapons) nor by any shastra (handheld weapons), and neither on land nor in water or air.

Because of these powers, Hiranyakashipu became very arrogant and thought that he was God. He asked everyone to worship only him.

Now there was a problem, because Hiranyakashipu’s own son, called Prahlada, did not agree with this. He was a devotee of Lord Vishnu (Vishnu’s Avatar had earlier killed Hiranyakashipu’s brother). This made Hiranyakashipu very angry. He decided to punish Prahlad.

But none of the punishments affected Prahlad.

Then Holika, who was Prahlada’s evil aunt, thought of a really horrible thing to do. She had a cloak (a covering cloth, like a shawl) that was fireproof and did not burn.

Holika decided to trick Prahlad into sitting on her lap as she sat on a pyre (fire) with her.  She was wearing the magic cloak, so she knew that she would not be burned, but Prahlad would.

But then, when the fire started to burn, the cloak flew from Holika and wrapped Prahlad. So, he got saved and Holika was burned.

The destruction of Hiranyakashipu

The destruction of Hiranyakashipu

Then Vishnu took the form of Narasimha – which was a God who was half human and half lion (which is neither a human nor an animal), and came out at dusk (when it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and then killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a missile-type weapon).

So, he killed Hiranyakashyapu even though he had special protection. He destroyed the evil king and that is why Holi is celebrated as a win of good over evil, and Holika is burned the night before.

Why do we play with colours on Holi?

Why do we play with colours on Holi?

Here’s the popular belief…

Krishna, whose skin was blue, was in love with Radha. So one day he plays a joke on Radha and smears her face with colour. He is also said to
mischievously throw coloured water on the milkmaids as a boy.

The throwing of colours is said to come from that.


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