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Holi

Place :North India
Significance: Spring festival
Date: 13.3.2017

Holi is the most lively of all Hindu festivals,  observed all over North India, which falls on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun  (March) according to the Hindu calendar. It heralds the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life. It is a festival of joy when all is forgiven and it is a time to break free from the shackles of  convention and let ourselves go. 

Legend associated with the festival

Holy is associated with a legendry encounter between Hiranyakashyapu, a powerful demon king and his son Prahlad. Hiranyakashyapu who had gained victory over gods in a war had forbidden his subjects from worshipping gods. But his son Prahlad who was a ardent devotee of Vishnu, refused to obey his orders. 

Hiranyakashyapu had a sister, Holika, who was blessed with special powers-fire could not burn her. Hiranyakashyapu  ordered Holika to take Prahlad in her lap and mount a burning pyre. She did so, but Prahlad came out unscathed while Holika was reduced to ashes. It is said that Holi is celebrated and Holi fires lit in remembrance of this miracle. 

Celebration

The night before full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twigs of the winter. People throw coloured powders at each other and make merry. People, young and old are drenched with colours  being poured from atop the houses, bursting balloons, or long pistons. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion.

Preparations for the festival begin a week ahead. Houses are given a fresh coat of color, beautiful floral designs are drawn at the entrance and colours bought. In earlier days the colors were extracted from a flower that blossoms only during this festival and the pistons were made of bamboo sticks. But over the years colors are made artificially and pistons made of different materials are available in various designs. In villages, powders made of rice flour mixed with turmeric and bamboo poles are still used. Special delicacies such as malpua and other delicacies are prepared on this day, which vary from region to region. 

Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) and the small towns of 'Braj Bhoomi ( Land of Lord Sri Krishna ) celebrates the joyful rasaleela of Krishna  and gopis during Holi.  Especially famous is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon. In Anandpur Sahib (Punjab), Sikhs celebrate a special festival 'Hola Mohalla' on the day after Holi. It marks a display of ancient martial arts and mock battles.

 

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