Holi – Festival of Colours: What Is It & How Do Hindus Celebrate?

holi hindu festival

Holi is one of the vibrant, colourful and spectacularly beautiful Hindu festivals celebrated with much enthusiasm across the country.

The important rituals of this joyous festival include playing with colours, relish delicious food and consume bhang. The Holi festival always falls on full moon day in February-March every year.

History of Holi

The word Holi is named after “Holika” the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. As per Hindu Puranas, king Hiranyakashipu was a demon king who believed that he was more powerful than gods and he wanted everyone to worship him. His son Prahalad didn’t consider him as god and he worshipped Lord Vishnu.

This made the demon king very angry and he decided to kill his son. He tried all sorts of methods to kill his son but every time Lord Vishnu saved Prahalad. Finally, the king asked his sister Holika to kill his son. Holika had a power where she could enter the fire unscathed. Holika seated herself on blazing fire and made Prahalad sit on her lap.

Holika was burned to ashes while Prahalad came out unharmed. This is due to the fact that Holika was not aware that boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Holika had to pay for her sinister desire by her life. Hence the Holi is celebrated as a festival to signify the triumph of victory over evil.

Significance of Holi

In many parts of North India, it is a 2-day festival, first day is called “Chhoti Holi” where people gather and light a bonfire to signify the symbolic victory of good over evil. The event is called Holika Dahan.  Next day is the main festival of colours is celebrated with much fervour.

In Tamil Nadu celebrated as Kaaman Pandagai. Holi rituals signify the sacrifice of Kamadeva. Holi is known by three names – Kamavilas, Kaman Pandagai and Kaman-Dahanam.

In West Bengal, it is celebrated as Basant Utsav and Dol Jatra. Basant translates to ‘Spring’ and Utsav means ‘Festival’. Dol Jatra is a ritual where Idols of the god Krishna and goddess Radha are placed on the swing and worshipped.

In Kerala and some parts of Konkan coast celebrated as Manjal Kuli. It is celebrated in Konkani Temple, Gosripuram Temple.

In Uttar Pradesh, the towns of Barsana and Nandagaon celebrate Lathmar Holi , days before the actual Holi festival. This ritual takes place in goddess Radha Rani temple in Barsana that is said to be the only temple in India dedicated to goddess Radha.

Holi Special Beverage Bhang

The most essential part of this colourful festival is the consumption of Bhang. Bhang is a preparation made of cannabis. Thandai, lassi, milkshake are the most popular form of consuming bhang. However, Thandai Bhang is the most preferred and savoured drink and it is tagged as Holi beverage.

Bhang is associated with Holi to the extent that it is considered that consuming it is equally as important as playing with colours. The limited consumption of bhang is considered to provide relief and relaxation to the mind and body. 

Special Delicacies of Holi

Thandai: A refreshing mildly spiced and sweet cold drink made with the mixture of nuts, rose petals, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom, pepper, milk and sugar.

Gujiya: Delicious crispy and flaky deep-fried stuffed sweet dish. The dough made with plain flour and semolina is filled with a mixture of sweetened milk solids called khoya. It is then folded like a half-moon and deep-fried until crisp.

Lassi: Popular yoghurt-based chilled drink that can be made in different flavours – Mango Lassi, Rose Lassi, Sweet Lassi, Salt Lassi, Masala Lassi are few popular ones to name.

Malpua: A fried sweet pancake soaked in sugar syrup and topped with creamy sweetened reduced milk called ‘Rabdi’.

Namak Pare: A delectable crunchy and crispy savoury snack made with wheat flour.