Holi is one of the most celebrated festivals of spring in India. Holi is also known as the festival of love, joy, forgiveness, and forgetfulness of all tensions. It symbolizes that essentially life is a very exuberant process. On this day all over India people throw colors at each other, they drench themselves in color. This is a day when people are from head to toe in all kinds of color to symbolize that the essence of life is exuberance, joy, happiness, and love.
The festival is celebrated for a night and the next day. It starts at the onset of Poornima (full moon night) of the month of Phalgun that is Holika Dahan and the following day that is Dhulendi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti or Phagwah (Color play). Holika Dahan is celebrated by burning the bonfire.
Holi is also celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil in the honor of Lord Vishnu and his follower Prahlada also known as Bhakt Prahlad(devotee). King Hiranyakashipu, was the king of demonic Asuras and had earned a boon that gave him five special powers: he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by Astra (projectile weapons) nor by any Shastra (handheld weapons), and neither on land nor in water or air. Hiranyakashipu grew arrogant, and started believing himself as God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
His son Prahalad however, used to worship Lord Vishnu and remained devoted to going against his father’s will. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s evil sister, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and covered Prahlada, who survived while Holika got burnt in flames. Vishnu, the God who appears as an avatar to restore Dharma, took the form of Narasimha – half human and half lion (which is neither a human nor an animal), at dusk (when it was neither day nor night), took Hiranyakashipuu at a doorstep (which was neither indoors nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (which was neither land, water nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws (which were neither a handheld weapon nor a launched weapon).
The Holika bonfire and Holi signifies the celebration of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipua. This symbolizes the burning of everything that’s no longer required. In earlier times people used to collect old things, clothes from the house and burn them in the Holika Dahan ritual.
- The biggest health benefit that this festival provides is the freedom from all kinds of stress as we release all old things as well as thoughts that are no longer required. Forgetting the past and freeing our minds relaxes the mind, body, and soul.
- The festival comes at the end of spring and before summer arrives. This weather activates various bacterias and viruses. The heat from the Holika bonfire cleans the surroundings as well as the bodies that come close contact to it for prayers.
- In earlier times the colors were prepared from dried Palash flower(Butea monosperma or bastard teak) that has many anti-bacterial properties. The color prepared from this flower is called Kesari(Saffron).
In Sanskrit, the flower is extensively used as a symbol of the arrival of spring and the color of love.
Making Natural colors for Holi
Flowers like Red Hibiscus, Rose, Petunia to be plucked when they are fully bloomed and appear bright and healthy. Dry these flowers and grind them later. Red sandalwood powder can also be used. Add rice flour or corn starch in equal quantities to increase the volume of the powder. For wet colors, boil peels of pomegranate, beetroot, carrots in water.
Blending turmeric powder with gram flour in a 1:2 ratio to make dry Gulal. Alternatively, any yellow-colored flowers, such as marigold or yellow chrysanthemums, can be crushed and boiled in water for wet colors.
One can use Henna or Mehendi powder. Green leafy vegetables can be boiled in large quantities like spinach, neem leaves to make liquid.
Soak sliced beetroots in water, boil the mixture and leave it overnight. To darken the shade add more beetroots in less water and to get light pink color use less beetroot. You can also use red onions for this one.
Powdered blue hibiscus flower petals and rice flour can be used to obtain blue-colored Gulal. For wet colors, use crushed and dried jacaranda flowers mixed with water.
Prepare it by boiling dried Indian gooseberries or ‘amla’ in an iron vessel and leaving it overnight. Dilute it with water the next day
Another way is adding the boiled colored water in corn starch or rice flour or talcum-powder and drying it in full sun for dry colors.