All around the world, India is known as a country which is full of colors and this reflects so well in the kind of clothes that Indians wear or in the kind of unique bazaars that India has. And just when one starts to think that India may actually be the most colorful country of the world, India astonishes you even more by getting even more colorful with its ancient festival that is called Holi. Around the month of March, millions of Indians come out of their houses to add millions of colors in the streets of this colorful country. People call this celebration Holi, Holika Dahan, Phagwah, Dola Jatra or Basanto Utsav. But regardless of the name that we give to this festival which is more than 5000 years old, the message that it brings is the same all over the country. The days of Holi remind us that all of us are equal, whether it’s our skin color, our background, our bank account or our clothes. Because that is the actual spirit and the message of this beautiful Indian festival.
The ancient festival of India – Holi
It all starts on the eve of the last full moon of the Hindu calendar month of Phalgun when people gather around bonfires singing and dancing. The most famous celebration starts the next day on the day of a full moon which is called Purnima. On this day, people use colorful dry powders and colored water and spray them on others in an atmosphere of great joy and happiness. This celebration has its origin in the ancient times of Krishna but not everyone remembers about it. Recently, The west has adopted this festival as well and they call it – the festival of colors but for most of the participants, this event is just a great way to have a “cool” party and hardly anyone knows that this so called party of colors is actually a sacred Hindu festival. That is why, I want the world citizens to understand the importance of Holi, its origin and the main message.
History of Holi
Holi is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. In Bhagavata Purana, a story of a demon king Hiranyakashipu and his son is described. The king wanted everyone to treat him like a God; he was self-obsessed and very arrogant. And he had a son called Prahlada. The boy did not want to worship his father as God because he was the devotee of Vishnu. The Angry king ordered a punishment in which he involved Prahlada’s aunt Holika – a very evil woman. She was fire resistant so they decided to lure the boy and make him sit together with her on a pyre. But it turned out that she could survive the flames only when she was alone. So, she got burnt to ashes and Prahlada was saved thanks to his devotion to Vishnu.
But this explains only the first part of the celebration when people start a bonfire and it does not tell us why on the day of Holi people throw color on each other. This is connected with Krishna who was the human manifestation of the Supreme God and his beautiful life on the Earth. As most of you know, Krishna’s skin had a blue color which obviously made him unique among others. As a child, he was a very naughty boy who loved playing pranks. He had lots of friends and one of them was Radha. In order to make sure that she will like him, Krishna’s mother suggested putting some colors on her face so then they would both look similar. And this tradition grew and started to spread among other kids of Gokul and Vrindavan and it is celebrated until today so all the people look the same regardless of the community, skin color, social status, age or gender.
How to make organic colors for Holi?
Many of you may wonder how come this was possible when there were no colors like the ones that we can buy in the shop today. And that is exactly the point! For thousands of years, people were using natural dry powders that you can extract from vegetables, flowers, fruits or herbs. How to do it? I will tell you just a few examples. To get the red color, all you have to do is to dry rose petals or hibiscus flowers in the sun and once they become crispy, you can grind them in a mixer and mix them with flour to add some volume. The easiest way is to get yellow and green. Simply, use turmeric powder and mix it with flour to get yellow color and take some good quality henna powder or finely crushed fenugreek leaves or mint, add some flour and you will have green color ready. If you add to henna powder some amla powder, you can get brown color. Take some blue hibiscus or jacaranda flowers, dry them, grind them and mix with flour and you have a blue color to throw on your friends. These are just a few methods that I mentioned, there is much more to add. In Vrindavan the technique is even better- here it is rose water, saffron and…..
So, that was a way how people were playing Holi for thousands of years and many still prefer to use these organic colors as there are cases when people suffer from a rash after using artificially made powders or wet colors which are becoming more and more popular. Even in Vrindavan and Mathura, people have started to play Holi with artificial colors. I hope that the people of India can revive their ancient tradition of natural colors again!
Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan
Mostly, Holi is celebrated for 2-3 days but if you happen to be in Mathura and Vrindavan during this festival, you will see that there it lasts for much longer. Mathura is the birth city of Sri Krishna and probably the most visited city for all Krishna devotees. Many people come to Mathura purposely just to attend Holi and celebrate this festival in so many of Krishna temples which are all over the city and they welcome everyone to be a part of this joyful event. And one more thing – Holi is not only about colors. It is also about delicious sweets and trust me if you are in Mathura which is famous for its mouthwatering desserts, you are going to have an incredible feast! Indulge yourself eating different types of gujiya or malpua. And even though these are not typical desserts of Holi, go for ladoos or burfi which will surprise you with a great variety to choose from.
So, go and enjoy this famous festival, go and let yourself get colored by strangers as Holi brings the spirit of joy, happiness and unity. Feel the real Holi of India, not a dance party with colors as it happens in the West which requires you to buy a ticket and wait for some DJs to play loud music. In the real Holi, you just need to go out from your house, get colored and enjoy its great atmosphere. No one will ask you to show your badge as Holi has no restrictions. So, “Bura na mano, Holi hai!” (‘Don’t be offended, it’s Holi!’)