Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Holi... The Colors of the Holy fire, Holika Dahan

HAPPY HOLI

Dhuleti/ Dhulendi/ Dhuli Vandana

One of the most awaited festivals – The festival of color, HOLI - is finally here! This is the last festival of the Hindu calendar before New Year arrives on Gudi Padwa (April 4th).

Trees have begun to smile with their sprout of tender leaves and budding flowers. People are out on the streets shrouded in a mist of blues, reds and greens, powders of all possible colors rejoicing this renewal of nature, the arrival of spring, celebrating all good things in life, celebrating the very spirit of life!


Radha Krishna playing the colorful festival of Holi
(Image courtesy Google Images)
In a bid to bridge the complexion gap, 
a very innocent but naughty Krishna (dark-hued), 
acting on his mother Yashoda’s advice, 
had drenched His beloved Radha (fair-hued) in color and water!
This slowly evolved into the festival of Holi and 
continues to mask all boundaries of class, caste, age and gender till date!

Colorful Latmar Holi played in Mathura
(Image courtesy Reuters)
It doesn’t matter if you are black or white; 
the splash of colors makes everything bright!

There’s more to the festival however…

Holika Dahan

A traditional ancient ritual that takes place on the full moon night of Phalgun Purnima, one day prior to the bigger event of color the next day;
Holika Dahan is marked by the lighting of bonfires at temples, housing societies and localities all across the country.

Several stories are associated with the ritual but the one that i have grown up hearing is that of Prahlad, the 5 year old braveheart and
a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, who defied his father's wishes, the demon king Hiranyakashipu (who self proclaimed himself as God) and worshipped Lord Vishnu instead. So strong was his faith that His Master will protect him that he even agreed to sit on the burning fire with his aunt Holika who was blessed with a boon that fire could never harm her.

What happened then left everybody amazed! Holika was burnt to death while Prahlad who had been continuously chanting Lord Vishnus name escaped unharmed! Thus, even today this tradition is carried out in admiration of the strong devotion of Bhagat Prahlad, the bonfires are lighted as a symbolic burning of the demon Holika.

Holika Dahan during the Holi festival in India
Logs of wood, dried twigs, leaves and branches are collected
and bonfires are made out of them

Full moon night of phalgun poornima on the night of Holi
When night falls, people start gathering…
And In the twilight of the full moon…

Today was also the rare phenomenon of "Super Moon"

The Bonfire a symbol of burining of Holika the demon during Holi in India
The bonfire comes alive!

Lamps are light during the Holika Dahan in the Holi festival in India
Lamps are lit...

People praying to the Holika Dahan fire during the Holi festival in India

Oat grains, coconut, flowers and water are offered to the fire God (AgniDev)
and prayers for a bountiful year ahead.

People offering coconut, water and other items in the bonfire during the Holi festival in India
People circumabulating the Holika Dahan fire during the Holi festival in India
The fire is then circumambulated with an oath 
to make new beginnings and by letting bygones be bygones...

Prasad of coconuts is taken back during the Holika Dahan in the Holi festival in India
The ashes left in the fire are considered sacred, collected and taken back home as Prasad. The fanning of the smoke emanating from it is spread in the house and
is considered to bring prosperity and good will to the family.

A Bonfire during the Holika Dahan ritual during the Holi festival in India

The ritual not only reestablishes the conviction of people in the ultimate divine power but also serves as a reminder that good always triumphs over evil no matter how difficult the circumstances seem to be and that we should never veer off the right path.


Festival of colors, Holi
Let this Holi be a time when we change not only the colour of our faces, but the colour of our hearts. Let us not only play Holi, but let us become holy. Let the only colour that truly penetrates our beings, be the colour of God.
Swami Chidananda Saraswati

Today is Dhuleti and this post comes amidst all the vibrant fun and frolic, singing and merrymaking that's happening right now in many parts all over the country! Though i do not play holi as it is a bit too wild for my liking but i do enjoy being with family, feasting on the delicious sweets like gujiya and thandai, the joyful festive mood thats palpable in the air and taking part in the festivities the night before (Holika Dahan)!

Is Holi celebrated in your part of the country? If yes, how do you celebrate it and what are the rituals you observe in your culture?

41 comments:

  1. Oh, i love that - a festival of color! to me, colors capture the essence of live. It must be so beautiful to watch this, A great tradition. Very impressive the bonfires as well- And important to celebrate hope and the victory of goodness in these difficult times! Happy weekend to you!

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  2. Nice, comprehensive post, Aarti.. this is one of the few festivals i dont particiapte in... used to like the holika dahan, but then it is hardly celebrated in our area, and considering the direction our trees are going in, wonder how long we can celebrate it... and playing with colours has never attracted me... i used to hide inside my house when i was a kid :)

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  3. ARTI!!!!! Oh, coming here is literally like flying on a plane to a land that I only hear of...I have a bright and beautiful student of Indian origin and her parents are SOOOOO GOOD about taking her to India at least TWICE during the school year. She is there NOW for she left us on Friday to spend TWO weeks there. I love the colors of your world and the rituals. YOUR CUISINE IS INCREDIBLE as well, and there is so much behind the scenes in our cultures, isn't there? I wish I would have seen this moon; another blogger down in AUSTRALIA mentioned this phenomenon and I know that I have seen this kind of moon at least twice in my life....thank you for your kind comments about my writing.I hope to improve and polish my prose for I want to communicate. Blessings of peace and love to you, Arti!

    Anita

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  4. Our celebration is associated with temple . It is fun burning the bonfire and people dancing around it. There is a ritual bath with turmeric water for those who like to participate. People in groups move from house to house and they are splashed with turmeric water. This happens in all the lanes surrounding our temple. It's fun to watch this . I miss all this now as I am far away.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your post as it was a good reminder for me of my home Holi.
    Happy Holi to all.

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  5. Wish you and your family a nice festive time .

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  6. @Anu
    Even I used to be scared of holi, actually I still am! To avoid cutting of trees, we use old wooden furniture, dried tree branches, cow dung cakes which supplement the wood.. The bonfire is quite ecofriendly that way, atleast in our society.

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  7. @Chitra
    That is a very interesting practise, never heard of it. Thanks so much for sharing it here.
    Its so good to hear of the use of natural colors like turmeric which is so rare to see nowadays. This must be fun!

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  8. Superb post Arti..! All our traditional customs have some associated meaning and it is a pity that most of which we either don't understand or unable to follow..!

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  9. Marvelous, interesting, colorful post as always, Arti! I love it! Thanks for sharing the fun! And the "super" moon was beautiful wasn't it? Hope you have a great week!

    Sylvia

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  10. Happy Holi Aarthi, Lovely photos to compliment with the detailed write up abt holi!

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  11. This is truly inspiring and beautiful. Thank you for visiting my blog the other day. I'm glad you did so I could find out about these spiritual traditions.--Inger

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  12. Thanks for visiting my blog "justcallmejo." I have never heard of holi. The pictures are phenomenol. I will stop by again. I appreciate learning new things.

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  13. So spring has come where you are too!!! Today is our first day of spring, but we do not have any celebrtions here at all! Too bad, I wish we did!! Did you take the moon picture and the pictures of the fire? Very good! And I did not know these stories or about any of this, so interesting.

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  14. Arti,
    A great post that has taught me so much about this festival. I love the ritual of color.

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  15. excellent pictorials and very well stated.
    marvelous

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  16. Hi,
    lovely and a neat blog, keep it up. Holi, i was attached to this festival when it was only with gulal. now you know how it has turned. anyway festivals are bonding time with families, friends and one more reason to eat more :)

    happy holi :)
    Prasant Naidu

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  17. @Chitra thanks for sharing your story. wasn't aware of this ritual .

    Prasant N.

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  18. Wonderful images of Holi. People here more busy in putting colors.
    Wish you Happy Holi.

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  19. Arti Hi! It is a perfect article. I loved this so much, the story plus wonderful pics such a sweet words. Just Awesome! I loved the second para most. Thanks for sharing.

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  20. superb ...i loved it...I like the way you write ..so spiritual:)

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  21. What a wonderful festival of colour - where everyone unites regardless! So much hope and beauty.

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  22. Beautiful post......and lovely clicks!!! I find the holika dahan very intresting....it is not part of the Holi celebrations in Orissa!!

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  23. I also posted about this festival but not as well nor in such depth, I know it is a little late but I hope you don't mind me including a link to this.

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  24. @ Petty Witter
    Very kind of you to say that. Glad you liked it!
    A link, that would be such an honour and a pleasure too!

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  25. was interesting to read the history... the festival of colors. its not celebrated down here in South India, though it is spoken widely... belated Holi wishes... hope u had a great celebration...

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  26. Very interesting read! I've never heard of this festival, but I love the idea of it and really enjoyed your photos.

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  27. Love the pictures of the bonfire! i am totally missing holi this time since i am not in the country :(

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  28. wow.... im pretty sure i would love this festival. i have wondered what it was about and now i know!
    thank you
    ~laura xx

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  29. A very happy Holi to you too Arti.
    Why are you not on Twitter ?

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  30. Colourful post Arti! Nice to read the story of Holi...

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  31. Good photoblog on holi, enjoyed the gr8 photos of the occasion along with the supermoon photos.....

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  32. These are interesting shots, Arti!

    Have a happy day xxx

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  33. Super colors and photos. I am glad you shared the Holika- Prahlad story as well. Even if we do know these stories, with time they start getting hazy! A refresher is good!

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  34. Looks like everyone is having fun!

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  35. I hope you had a wonderful HOli holiday Arti. I have never heard of that celebration before. I love the idea of a festival of colors and of celebrating diversity. The ancient fire tale (his Aunt burning up) is a little eerie and frightening, but traditional stories from our country often make me shiver too!

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  36. Dear Arti
    How are you? I shall read word by word on chardham, slowly. so I am writing here on hloi page, just to say I am back. Dwaraka trip went off well and my MIL was very happy.
    I am cooking few vege dish for you and post soon.
    This piece is also very well written as usual. I liked it.
    Have a nice day

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  37. You said that Holika was burnt to death while Prahlad who had been continuously chanting Lord Vishnus name escaped unharmed!

    There was also one other reason why Holika burnt to death. She was unaware that she would be immune to fire only if entered alone. She entered with Prahlad and that was also one of the reasons why she got burnt while Prahlad escaped.

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  38. Great post! Coming from your link on Best Posts of the Week. :)

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  39. Beautiful post and very informative. Just dropped by from BPOTW. We have mardi GRAS here, but not the same.

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