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De-Stress The Mind With Holi Celebration

Holi, called the festival of colors, is a popular Hindu Spring Festival observed in India. Holi as a festival started several centuries before Christ as can be inferred from its mentions in the religious works of Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutra. It is referred to in a seventh century Sanskrit play as the cupid festival. It is the second most important festival of India after Diwali and is celebrated in most of the states of India. Different states celebrate it according to their own customs. The festival mainly started to welcome the spring season and win the blessings of Gods for good harvests and fertility of the land.

It is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March) according to the Hindu calendar. Phalgun Purnima usually falls in the later part of February or early March. The previous day of Holi is called as “Holika Dahan” or “Choti Holi”, where people burn logs of wood at night, observes Holi Pooja and everywhere one hears shouts of "Holi-ho! Holi-ho!" and people take a little fire from this bonfire to their homes. They believe that their homes will be rendered pure, and their bodies free from disease. This year Holi (Dhulandi) was on March 1 and Holika Dahan on Feb. 28.



HOW IS HOLI CELEBRATED

During Holi, people clean their houses and remove clutter, thereby ensuring flow of positive energy. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed. The sanitary condition of the locality is improved. People smear each other's faces with colored powder known as 'Gulal' and 'Abeer' and throw colored water or 'Rang' on each other joyfully. People play practical jokes with passers-by. They take out processions on streets that feature folk songs and dances. Food preparations begin many days in advance, with assemblage of gujia, papads, kanji and various kinds of snack items including malpuas, mathri, puran poli, dahi badas, which are served to Holi guests. The 'Bhaang' (opium) drinks are very popular among people and it is the favorite festival drink. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colours that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.

HOLI LEGENDS

Like all Indian and Hindu festivals, there are many interesting legends attached to Holi: The Holika-Hiranyakashipu-Prahlad legend, Radha-Krishna legend, Lord Shiva's killing of Kamadeva and the story of the ogress Dhundhi.

THE LEGEND OF PRAHLAD-HOILKA

This is the main Holi legend. Holika was a female demon, and the sister of Hiranyakashyap, the demon king. Hiranyakashyap considered himself ruler of the Universe, and higher than all the Gods. He despised Lord Vishnu. Prahalad was the king's son. He was a pious boy. His father hated him because Prahalad was a faithful devotee of the God Vishnu. One day the king asked him "Who is the greatest, God or I?" "God is," said the son, "you are only a king." The king was furious and decided to kill his son. But the king's attempts at murder didn't work too well. Prahalad survived being thrown over a cliff, being trampled by elephants, bitten by snakes, and attacked by soldiers. Each time Prahlada was protected by Lord Vishnu.

So the king asked his sister, Holika, to kill the boy. Holika seized Prahalad and sat in the middle of a fire with the boy on her lap. Holika had been given a magic power by the Gods that made her immune to fire, so she thought this was a pretty good plan, and Prahalad would burn to death while she remained unharmed.
But it's never wise to take Gods' gifts for granted! Since Holika was using her gift to do something evil, her power vanished and she was burned to ashes. Prahalad stayed true to his God, Vishnu, and sat praying in the lap of his demon aunt. Vishnu protected him, and Prahalad survived.
Later Lord Vishnu emerged from the pillar in the incarnation of a dreadful creature, half-man-half-lion called Narasimha (the fourth incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Nara means man, Simha means lion. Narasimha killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra). Through penance Hiranyakashipu had obtained the boon from Brahma ( Hindu God of creation) that he could neither be killed by man nor by beast, neither by day nor by night, neither indoors nor when outdoors and neither by hand nor by weapon.
This legend has a strong association with the festival of Holi, and even today there is a practice of hurling cow dung into the fire and shouting obscenities at it, as if at Holika. In many parts of India, a dummy of Holika is burned on the fire. The moral of the story is that good always wins over evil, and those who seek to torment the faithful will be destroyed.

THE LEGEND OF RADHA AND LORD KRISHNA

Another legend, which tells us the use of colors in Holi is that of Lord Krishna and Radha. The story goes that the young Krishna (Indian God) would complain to his mother Yashoda about why Radha (His soul mate) was so fair and he so dark. To make young Krishna happy, Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha's face and see how her complexion would change according to his choice. Playful and mischievous Krishna appreciated the idea and implemented it. This lovable prank of throwing colored powder and watercolors using 'pichkaris'(shaped like giant syringes or squirt guns) soon gained favor with the people and it evolved into the tradition of Holi and later it turned out to be a full fledged festival.

The birthplace of the Lord Krishna, Brajbhoomi is made up of the two cities Mathura and Vrindavan. The festivities commence in this region one week earlier than in other cities and last for 16 vibrant days. It begins with 'Holi Milan' or Baithaks, musical soirees, where song related to the festival, and the epic love story of Radha Krishna are sung; specially various types of folk songs, known as “Hori” are sung as well. Some classical ones like Aaj biraj mein Holi re rasiya, have been present in the folklore for many generations. The village of Barsana, a short distance from Mathura, has its own unique ritual. Radha was from Barsana. Till date, lovers desire to colour and be coloured by their mates. The application of colours has in a way become an expression of love.

Throughout the festivities and fun of Holi, there are plenty of opportunities for young people in India to flirt with one another with more ease than usual. In fact, on the days of Holi, you can get away with almost anything by saying, "Don't mind, it's Holi!" (Bura na mano, Holi hai.)

THE KAMADEVA LEGEND

Kamadeva is the Hindu God of love and He is represented as a handsome, winged young man who wields a bow and arrow. Legend has it that the bow is made of sugarcane with a string of honeybees, while his arrows are said to be decorated with five different kinds of flowers. Kamadeva is accompanied by a cuckoo, a parrot, humming bees, the spring season and a soft and tender breeze.

According to a legend, Goddess Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, one of the first sons of Lord Brahma, married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. Thus, Daksha did not invite her and her husband to a grand Yagya arranged by him. When Sati came to know about the event in her father's house, she thought it to be a slip of mind and proceeded to participate in the event despite the warnings of her husband. But once she reached there, she realized her fault and was infuriated by the insult of her husband. As a penance for her disobedience, she entered the fire. When Lord Shiva came to know of her sudden demise, he was furious. Even after he controlled his anger, he started a severe meditation and renounced all work.

The world's balance soon crumbled in his absence and Sati took rebirth as Goddess Parvati to try and win Lord Shiva's heart and wake him up from his trance. She tried all ways to get the attention of Shiva. When she had exhausted all her feminine ways, she invoked the help of Kamadava, the Indian cupid-god, who agreed to help her in the cause of the world despite the risks involved. He shot his love-arrow on Shiva's heart. Disturbed in his trance, Lord Shiva opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kama's body was reduced to ashes.
Now, with Kamadeva's destruction, the world became barren and infertile, for he had been the God of desire and love. Shiva and Parvati went on to get married. But when Parvati and the other Gods including Rati, Kamdeva's wife pleaded with Shiva to resurrect Kamadeva, Shiva relented. He brought Kamadeva to ‘life' thereby restoring the fertile cycles of nature. However, Kamadeva was resurrected purely as a mental image, so that he represented the emotional and mental state of love, rather than pure physical lust.

It is said that it was on the day of Holi that Kamadeva had sacrificed himself for the good of all beings. It is believed that Holi, the festival of colors, and the traditional bonfire that is lit on that day, commemorate this legend. So, many people worship Kamadeva on Holi-day, with the simple offering of a mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste to cool off the pain of his fatal burns. Songs are also sung in which Rati's sorrow is depicted.

LEGEND OF DHUNDHI

During the reign of Prithu, there was a terrible ogress called Dhundhi, who loved to devour innocent children. She had performed severe penances and had won several boons from the deities that made her almost invincible. However, due to a curse of Lord Shiva, she was not as immune to the pranks and abuses of young boys as she was to weapons and arrows. One day, the courageous boys of the village decided to get rid of her forever and chase her away from the village. They got intoxicated on bhaang and then followed Dhundi to the limits of the village, beating drums, making loud noise, shouting obscenities and hurling insults at her and continued doing this until she left the village for good. This is the reason that even today young boys are allowed to indulge themselves in rowdiness, using rude words and intoxication on Holi.

These various mythological tales have led to a deep faith and respect towards the celebration of the festival, as Indians strongly believe in mythology. The moral behind all these stories is victory of good over evil, which is a lesson for the human race. The tales instill the faith of man into the ultimate power of God and his mercy over his devotees. Holi festival is the medium through which people are inspired to lead a virtuous life.

SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLI FESTIVAL

• Being an agricultural country, India's two big festivals Holi & Baisakhi come at the time when the harvest is at full bloom, giving people an opportunity to rejoice and relieve their emotional burdens and frustrations. Holi provides a wonderful opportunity to let loose all the tension and de-stress the mind. In a way Holi has positive benefits for the individual and the society as a whole. The dance performances and the music played during the festival rejuvenate the mind and soul.

• Holi colors have their own values. These are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi (Turmeric), Bilva, Red Sandlowood powder and other medicinal herbs. Traditionally, the dry colors used in Holi were prepared from Tesu or Palash flowers. Legends say Lords Krishna use to play Holi with Tesu flower colors. The color, especially Abeer, penetrates the body and strengthens the ions, improving health and beauty.

• As per the custom and tradition, people pay visits to their friends and relatives, to give them wishes as well as to strengthen their bonds and forgiving their hard feelings for others.. The festival brings the nation together, as it is not just celebrated by Hindus but also by the Sikhs, Christians and Jains. Everyone is then able to cast off the filthy rags, and begin the year with a heart as fresh and spotless as the white clothes worn on New Year’s Day.

• In India, spring season, during which the weather changes, induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body. During the tradition of Holika Dahan, when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation or going around) around the fire, temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit; the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it. Since the season is going through a change - from winter to summer, it is the period when people feel lethargic and drowsy. Holi provides them the opportunity to wear off their laziness, by enjoying themselves thoroughly.

• The Holi festival consists of worship of Lord Krishna. In some places it is also called the Dol Yatra. The word Dol literally means "a swing". An image of Sri Krishna as a babe is placed in a little swing-cradle and decorated with flowers and painted with coloured powders. The pure, innocent frolics of little Krishna with the merry milkmaids—the Gopis of Brindavan—are commemorated. Devotees chant the Name of Sri Krishna and sing Holi-songs relating to the frolics of little Krishna with the Gopis. They perform Satsangs, Havan and Kirtan of the Lord's Names. Visiting holy places, bathing in sacred waters are considered most auspicious. Abundant charity should be done to the poor.

CONCLUSION

Holi festival is indeed the symptom of colors of happiness. The festival symbolizes victory of good over evil.The festival of Holi teaches us "sacrifice". Burn all the impurities of the mind, such as egoism, vanity and lust, through the fire of devotion and knowledge. Ignite cosmic love, mercy, generosity, selflessness, truthfulness and purity through the fire of Yogic practice. This is the real spirit of Holi. Rise from the mire of stupidity and absurdity and dive deep into the ocean of divinity.


HAPPY HOLI!

Courtesy: Dr. Rita KhannaOm Shanti

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