On sundown March 1st to sundown March 2nd, Hindus celebrate the holiday of Holi, also known as the “festival of colors.” Each spring, Holi celebrations around the world spread infectious cheer wherever Indians gather. Marked by the light hearted tradition of throwing colored powder at family and friends, the festival is known for bridging the usually strict social divisions of caste, sex and age, bringing Hindus together as one joyous community. As with typical Hindu traditions, Holi originates from an ancient religious myth in which the demon Holika was punished by Lord Brahma for his hubris in challenging the supremacy of the gods. Brahma sent a destructive fire to consume Holika and it is this triumph of good over evil that is celebrated in the holiday of Holi.
On the first day of Holi, colored powder and colored water are arranged in preparation for the festivities.
People light huge bonfires to commemorate the burning of Holika, singing folk songs and praying for blessings, while making offerings of fruits and grains to the fire.
Women decorate the floor of their entryways with thin ribbons of colored powder in floral and geometric patterns known as ‘rangolis’.
The next day men, women and children form separate groups and visit the houses of neighbors and friends, playfully smearing each other’s faces and bodies with colored powder while squirting colored water and throwing water balloons on everyone they meet.
Lathmaar Holi is a reenactment from Lord Krishna’s life where the village men throw colored powder on the women who pretend to drive them away with sticks and are squirted with colored water in ‘revenge’.
In Mathura Vrindavan, the reputed birthplace of Lord Krishna, the celebration of the festival goes on for about a week. Devotees of Krishna fill the temples, seeking the blessings of the deity and passionately chanting the names of Lord Krishna and his consort, Radha.
Celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring, this festival breathes an air of romance and social merriment into the entire community. Holi is one of the most popular and keenly anticipated Hindu holidays. People travel from around the world to participate in this uniquely colorful and joyous experience that so perfectly expresses the essence of India.
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