The Colors of Holi

Photo by Diganta TalukdarOn March 11th, Hindus all over the globe celebrated the holy day of Holi with vibrant and colorful festivities. Known as the festival of colors, Holi symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and welcomes the coming of Spring. It begins on the eve of the full moon day in the month of Phalguna (in March or April) with a ritualistic bonfire, and culminates with a celebration of color by showering each other with colorful paint, powder, and water.

The mythology of Holi is as vibrant and diverse as the colors of the festival. Some legends celebrate Holi in honor of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha and their mischievous and youthful coloring of each others’ faces. Most traditions celebrate the triumph of Prahlad, the son of King Hiranyakashyap, over the treachery of the King’s sister Holika who tried to lure Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Naryana, into the fire. This victory symbolizes good over evil and the recognition of a true devotee. The Holi festival is named after the deceitful Holika and effigies of her are burned on the eve of Holi to mark the start of the divine celebration. Other legends of Shiva and Krishna are also associated with Holi.

The beauty and joy of this festival is incredible. Family, friends and even strangers willingly submit to being showered in dyed water and covered in colorful powder. The thousands of bodies on the streets of India become works of art in an effort to physically reflect the beauty of nature. School children, businessmen, and grandmothers are alive with vibrant colors and joyful enthusiasm. Participants surrender modesty and decorum for the Holi festival, and unabashedly celebrate the coming of spring, which symbolically represents the healing of social rifts, the “sweetness” of relationships and the brilliance of nature.

With smiles on their faces, hundreds of Holi celebrators eagerly submit to being covered in color. And as the Hindu community expands beyond India borders, its colors are spreading all over the globe, as is its inspiration. Nine thousand gathered in Houston, and over 200 in New York to celebrate and participate in the vibrant hues of Holi. As you look at the photos of these world wide celebrations, it’s hard not to be taken by the sheer vibrancy of it all. Grown men and women acting youthful and merry without cynicism or self-consciousness, clothes covered in colorful dye, faces stained and beautiful. All without worry or trepidation. Kind of makes you wonder about the last time you celebrated with total abandon? Maybe Holi can be an inspiration for us all.

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