9th February 2020

Holi

Holi, also known as the “festival of colours”, is an ancient Hindu festival which started in India, and is widely celebrated in India and Nepal. Holi celebrates the beginning of spring. It lasts for one day and one night. During Holi, many people throw colourful dry powder at each other.

Celebrations

Bonfire

The night before Holi, a bonfire, known as the pyre, is lit. The bonfire represents the victory of good over evil in the Vishnu legend. Once it is lit, people sing and dance around the fire.

A bonfire being lit | By Ingo Mehling – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

Throwing coloured powder

Many Hindus (and non-Hindus) celebrate Holi by throwing coloured powder at each other. Traditionally, powder made from plants was used but artificial powder is now used more often. The throwing of the powder (although coloured water is also sprayed in many places as well) is why Holi is known as the “festival of colours.”

A woman celebrating Holi in Hyderabad, India

Matka

In the north of India, there is a unique ceremony, now performed across the country thanks to Bollywood, that is performed at Holi. A big pot of buttermilk is tied up at an unreachable height.

The boys form a human pyramid in order to reach up to the pot and break it. The women use their saris to make ropes from the rooftops to try and stop the boys from breaking the pot.

A woman wearing a sari | By Abhina Basu, CC BY 2.0, Flickr

Vishnu legend

King Hiranyakashipu was the king of a class of the evil Asuras (a class of divine beings.) He had recently been blessed meaning he couldn’t be killed by any human or animal, in the day or night, or by handheld or launched weapons. The king became arrogant, thought he was a God and demanded everyone only worshipped him.

The king’s son, Prahlada, didn’t agree with what his father said and continued to remain loyal to Vishnu. The king punished his son, none of which changed his mind on who he should be loyal to.

Prahlada’s evil aunt, Holika, tricked him into sitting on a bonfire with her. She was wearing a cloak that meant she couldn’t be hurt by the fire, whilst he was not. When the fire was burning, the cloak flew from Holika to protect Prahlada, who survived whilst Holika burned.

Vishnu took the form of Narasimha, who was neither human or animal, took the king onto a doorstep (neither indoors or outdoors) at dusk (neither day or night), placed him on his lap (neither land, water or air) and killed the king with his claws (neither handheld or launched weapon.)