On 28th and 29th March Hindus all around the world marked the 2021 Festival of Holi, an amazingly colourful celebration of spring, love and new life.
Even though it may have looked a bit different this year, the Festival of Holi is a spectacular way to welcome the arrival of the new season, a time of renewal saluted with beautiful colours and a sense of coming back to light after the darkness of winter. This year the symbolic meaning was more evident than ever, as the world is slowly reopening to some sort of normality. Besides that, Holi is a great excuse to have fun and get extremely messy.
How is Holi celebrated?
Some families hold religious ceremonies, but for many Holi is more a time for fun. It is a colourful festival, with dancing, singing and throwing of powder paint and coloured water.
On the eve of the festival, large pyres are lit in many parts of India to signify the burning of evil spirits. People often throw wood, dried leaves and twigs into bonfires.
On the day of Holi, entire streets and towns turn red, green and yellow as people throw coloured powder into the air and splash them on others. Each colour carries a meaning. Red symbolises love and fertility while green stands for new beginnings. Yellow is the colour of turmeric, a powder native to India and used as a natural remedy; blue represents the Hindu God Krishna.
People also splash water on each other in celebration. Water guns are used to squirt water, while balloons filled with coloured water are also flung from rooftops. Later in the day, families gather together for festive meals. It is also common to distribute sweets among neighbours and friends.
What is the history of Holi?
Holi is said to have been celebrated for centuries, but over time, the purpose of the festival has evolved. In its infancy, the Holi festival was supposedly a ceremony for married women to bestow well-being and prosperity on their new family and married life.
Now, one of the primary themes of Holi is the triumph of good over evil. This takes root from the story of Hiranyakashipu, a king who believed he was immortal and should be worshipped as such. His son, Prahlad, was a devoted worshipper of Vishnu, a Hindu deity, and it displeased Hiranyakashipu that his own son would worship Vishnu over him. As the story goes, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a half-lion, half-man and killed Hiranyakashipu, and thus, good triumphed over evil.
The other story often associated with Holi is the story of Krishna and Radha. Krishna is always depicted with blue skin — his skin turned blue as a baby when he drank poisonous milk from a demon, according to Hindu legend. Krishna fell in love with Radha, but was worried that Radha would not feel the same way because of his skin. Radha let Krishna apply colour to her skin, and they became a couple. For this reason, on Holi people apply colour to each other’s skin.
The Holi spirit outside of India
The Festival of Holi holds a very powerful message, it signifies the victory of good over evil and is celebrated as a day of spreading happiness and love. The beautiful colours and the universality of the values have made Holi increasingly famous outside of India. Its spirit cuts across time, classes, borders and religions with the simple aim to bring people together to celebrate the onset of spring with the colours of joy, prosperity and peace. And in these times, more than ever, we all know how important it is to welcome some light and hope into our lives.
The Festival of Holi truly a feast for the eyes. To appreciate it in all its beauty, here is an amazing photo gallery from The Guardian.