Holi: A Festival that Celebrates Love and Unites All

holi festival celebrations ati vancouver

Holi formerly known as Holika is the festival of color that everyone is familiar with. It is one of the most cherished and widely observed holidays in India. The brilliance of colors brings a lot of happiness and joy in the lives of all Indians. This Hindu festival is observed across the country with a lot of pomp and fervor. Holi is known by different names in different parts of India. We have Lathmaar Holi, Phagu Purnima, Rang Panchami, Shimgo, Vasant Utsav, Dol Purnima and Kaman Pandigai to name a few.

Holi begins in the evening of Purnima, the Full Moon Day in the month of Falgun (February/March in the Gregorian calendar) and lasts a whole day. On the first evening of the festival, Holika Dahan (Lighting a pyre) is observed. Legend has it that Holika (a Demoness), Hiranyakashyap’s sister, received a blessing that made her invulnerable to fire. She tried to set her nephew Prahlada (Lord Vishnu’s disciple) on fire but was unsuccessful. Prahlada was spared, and she was set ablaze. This very famous legend and the lighting of a pyre signifies the triumph of good over evil. This occasion is known as Kama Dahanam in South India and is connected to the myth of Shiva (The Destroyer) using his third eye to burn Kamadeva (God of Love) to ashes. On this day, Kamadeva pantomimes are presented in rural Tamil Nadu, and his effigies are set ablaze.

However, perhaps the legends of Radha and Krishna are the most connected with the festival of Holi which is also sometimes known as the festival of love. In the Braj area of India, it is observed until Rang Panchmi in remembrance of Radha and Krishna’s divine love for one another. The romantic account of Radha and Krishna celebrating Holi was originally mentioned in the Puranic book, Garga Samhita, written by Sage Garga. It is well known that young Krishna is incredibly naughty and playful. According to legend, when Krishna was younger, he was terribly envious of Radha’s fair skin. Krishna bemoaned to Yashoda, his mother about the natural inequity that resulted in Radha being fair and him being dark. Yashoda told Krishna to paint Radha’s face any color he pleased. Mischievous Krishna took his mother’s suggestion and in a fit of mischief, smeared Radha’s face with colors to match his complexion. Several paintings and murals bring to life this lovely playful scene of Krishna’s trick, in which he puts color on Radha and other Gopis (Radha’s friends). People came to embrace and love Krishna’s endearing mischief. It became so popular that it turned into a custom and then an official celebration. In India, especially in the cities of Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana, and Nandgaon—the locations connected to Radha and Krishna, it’s a week-long celebration.

When it’s time for Holi, the entire nation is vivid with colors that commemorate the unending love of Krishna and Radha. It’s also customary in several Indian states to put the idols of Radha and Krishna inside a palanquin, decorated with colors and flowers, driven around the city’s principal thoroughfares chanting Radha Krishna’s name, singing hymns of devotion, and dancing in the lord’s name. Forming a human pyramid to shatter a pot of buttermilk, suspended high in the middle of a street, is yet another way of celebration. Holi known as Vasant Utsav (Spring Festival) in various parts of India, also celebrates the onset of Spring which signifies a new beginning.

Holika Dahan is celebrated on the eve of the festival, followed by kids and adults playing and smearing each other with bright shades of Gulal (colored powder), the next day.Everyone can be found either with a Pichkari (water Gun) or water balloons. People send heartfelt wishes for the holiday and exchange sweets, Thandai (traditional Indian beverage) and snacks with neighbours and friends. Some of the most popular sweets are Gujiya, Ladoo, Burfi, Imarti etc. People also dance to the beats of Holi songs and popular folk music. Exchange of Holi gifts, snack hampers, dry fruits and greeting cards are also common.

Every year, the legends of Holi are magnificently brought to life beyond geographical borders by the Indian diaspora. It inspires humanity to come together and rise above racial and religious boundaries. It’s a festival to let go of past grudges and connect with kindness and positive energy. Holi brings the society together and strengthen the secular fabric of any community in a way where it truly stands for the phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’. These traditions help in revitalizing relationships and strengthening emotional bonds.

Holi Festival 2024 Celebrations in Greater Vancouver Area:

Many Indian community organizations in Metro Vancouver have organized events to celebrate Holi 2024.

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Nisha Chatterjee

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