Holi also known as Basantutsav (Spring Festival) is the festival of colors which is celebrated across India with great cheer and gaiety.
WHEN IS HOLI CELEBRATED?
Holi falls on a full moon during the month of Phalgun some time in March. Holi festival marks the end of the Hindu calendar and is the beginning of new Samvat(New year). ‘Holi’ comes from the word ‘hola’, which means offering prayers to the Supreme God for a good harvesting season. By this time the crops have been cut, threshed, and stored or sold away. Spirit of festivity is alive in every Hindu household and is celebrated throughout India in early spring as it signifies the celebration of good over evil.
HOW IS HOLI CELEBRATED?
Holi is celebrated with zest and enthusiasm all around India and its among India’s premier festivals.This festival is the harbinger of the light, warm and beautiful days of Spring. The day of Holi is observed as a ‘Holi-day‘ and people are seen on the streets applying Gulaal and Abeer* (festival colors) on each other.
People clean their houses and adorn them with flowers and beautiful rangolis. Social gatherings are planned were everyone meet and greet each other by applying gulaals on their faces and by offering sweets to everyone. This festival grips everyone and on this day people put behind their differences and celebrate the festival together with a spirit of brotherhood and friendliness.
None of the Indian festival is completed without sweets and Holi menus include homemade rich sweet dishes like, ladoos, ‘gujiyas’, ‘malpuas’ ‘puranpolis.’ People also prepare cool drinks like ‘thandai’, mixed with the intoxicating ‘bhang’ and everyone enjoy its to the fullest.
WHY IS HOLI CELEBRATED?
There are many legends associated with holi. Few of them are listed below-
Legend 1 – Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad – The legend of King Hiranyakashap is associated with the festival of Holi which signifies the victory of good over evil. King Hiranyakashap was an ambitious ruler, who wanted absolute power so that he would be worshipped as God. When this wish was made known, the King’s own son, Prahlad, refused to obey his father.
Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, and he gave allegiance only to his Lord Vishnu. The proud King was enraged by Prahlad’s disobedience and decided to punish him severely.
He asked his sister Holika for help. It was believed that Holika was immune to fire and would never be burnt, so the King asked Holika to sit in the centre of a bonfire with Prahlad on her lap, so that the fire could devour him. The bonfire was lit, and young Prahlad sat in Holika’s lap,praying to Lord Vishnu. His devotion saved him, leaving him untouched by the flames, but Holika was burnt to ashes.
To mark this legend, huge bonfires made with dry twigs and leaves are lit on the eve of Holi, to commemorate Holika Dahan. Metaphorically, the fire is meant to signify the destruction of evil (burning of ‘Holika’). The heat from the fire is also a reminder that winter is behind us and the hot summer days are ahead. This ritual symbolizes the victory of good over evil. People sing and dance around this fire.
READ ABOUT KING HIRANYAKASHAP AND PRAHLAD IN OUR KIDS MYTHOLOGY STORY
Legend 2- Putana and Lord Krishna – Yet another legend holds that Holi is celebrated because of the female demon Putana, who tried to kill infant Krishna by feeding him poisonous milk. Lord Krishna in return killed her. Popular legend adds that Putana’s body disappeared and the cowherds of Mathura burnt her in a form of effigy. Since then, Mathura has been the main center for Holi.
Legend 3- Holi is the celebration of Krishna and Radha’s love – a teasing, affectionate panorama of feeling and color. Lord Krishna, in his youth is known for his divine dance “Raaslila” with his Gopis (maidens of the village). He loved festivity, and on this day the hamlets of Vrindavan, Gokul and Barsana were full of fun and frolic. Lord Krishna played Holi with so must gust that even today the songs sung during Holi are full of pranks that he played on the Gopis, especially with his childhood sweetheart Radha, who lived in Barsana.
REGIONAL NAMES FOR HOLI
Dulandi Holi in Haryana – This is the Bhabhi (brother’s wife) and Devar(brother-in-law) festival where bhabhi playfully beats the devar.
Lathmar Holi in Barsana – This is when the girls of Barsana (hometown of Radha) greet the boys /men from Nandgaon (hometown of Krishna) with Lathi (wooden sticks) instead of colors.
Hola Mohalla in Punjab– According to the Nanakshahi calendar, this festival marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year which usually takes place on the first day of Chet(month of March). Hola Mohalla was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singhji,who was at that time battling the Mughal empire.This day reminds the people of valour and defense which their Guru showed aganist the Mughals.
An annual festival is held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. Hola Mohalla is a 3 day grand festival where Sikh participants demonstrate their martial art such as GATKA (mock fights), tent pegging, horse riding and other military exercises. All around Punjab kirtans, music and poetry competitions are organized.
*Abeer means the colorful sky at the time of sunset and these colors mark the joy and abundance.
RECIPES OF HOLI – DAY
GUJIYAS – Holi without Gujiya recipe is incomplete. On the festive occasion of holi eating gujiya is like a tradition. Gujiya’s are sweet dumplings prepared with mawa- coconut mixture and glazed with sugar syrup.
ANGOORI GULAB JAMUN – Small spongy pearl shaped anguri/angoori gulab jamun are prepared with mawa/khoya and soaked in sugar syrup. Why they are called Angoori? Because they are shaped just like “Angoor”- “grapes” and are petite in size, way smaller than the regular gulab jamuns.
MILK PEDA – A popular Indian sweet prepared during festive season. Milk peda also referred to as doodh peda is traditionally made with mawa and flavored with cardamoms and nuts.
MOTICHOOR LADOOS – Motichoor Ladoo an Indian festive sweet that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Small pearl size boondi balls are fried and later dipped in sugar syrup to form this delicious delight.
KAJU KATLI – Kaju in hindi means cashews and katli means “slice”. So here we bring a simple cashew nut fudge recipe prepared with four simple ingredients -cashews, milk, sugar and water. Take a bite out of these creamy and soft kaju katli and you will get a heavenly “melt in your mouth” taste.
KATORI CHAAT – Need an appetizer or snack for a Holi- day party, try Katori chaat recipe or Tokri chaat!! ‘Katori or tokri’ refers to a bowl or canopies which are filled with potatoes and chutneys.
DAL KI KHASTA KACHORI – This holi try these crispy and delicious deep fried puffed up puris stuffed with lentils and aromatic spices.
THANDAI – Delicious Thandai recipe infused with perfect balance of aromatic Indian spices and flavored with nuts. All the nuts, seeds and spices are grounded to a fine paste and added to boiled milk.