Holi is a Hindu spring festival celebrated in February or March of the Gregorian
, to honor the goddess Holika. On the Hindu calendar
, Holi is in the month of Phagun on the day of the full moon. The holiday also commemorates a burning -- the burning of the Hindu love god (Kamdeo/Kamadeva
) by fire coming from Shiva's third eye, or the burning of the evil supernatural entity Holika or a king's daughter/sister of the same name when either Holika, falsely believed to be impervious to fire, tried to kill (her nephew/brother) Prahlad. Prahlad was, whether relative or not, a devout man who persisted in worshiping Vishnu despite opposition, and was therefore saved from burning in the fire into which Holika put him. To celebrate the event, a Holi bonfire is lit on the second evening of Holi. Ashes from the fire are put on the forehead.
The end of Holi marks the start of the new year. Opler says people try to purify themselves during the Holi period, with symbols of impurities, sickness, and filth thrown into the Holi fire, all in an effort to start the new year with the best possible prospects, and fresh and free from evil.
People play pranks on one another, most notoriously, the tossing of colored powders. Ribald jokes, licentious and other offensive behavior is allowed at this one event each year.
- Inside Hinduism, by Walter Hazen
- "Tribal Gods and Festivals in Central India"
Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (1968), pp. 27-106
- "Particularization and Generalization as Processes in Ritual and Culture"
Morris E. Opler
The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 23, Aspects of Religion in South Asia (Jun., 1964), pp. 83-87
- Holi Basics, From Hinduism at About.com
Also Known As: Phag, Phagwah, festival of colors.