Springtime is here once more, and as the University of Georgia’s campus is thrown into the annual flurry of newly born colors and fresh smells, the Hindu festival of colors arrives.
Holi is known as one of the Hindu religion’s most joyous and colorful festivals, heralding the triumph and return of spring. This year’s festivities begin on Sunday, March 28, and end on Monday, March 29. This festival is always celebrated in March, which corresponds to the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna. The coming of spring signifies the victory of good over evil.
The day of the March full moon is known as Holika Dahan. On this day, large pyres are lit to symbolize the burning of evil spirits. The pyres are viewed as cleansing and purifying the communities by burning away all evil.
On the day of Holi, directly following the full moon, the people celebrate by throwing colored powders and water in the air all over their cities, families and friends. Entire towns are coated in blue, red, green and yellow, symbolizing the deity Krishna, love, fertility, new beginnings, happiness and wealth.
Originating in southern Asia, Holi is said to have been celebrated for centuries. Over time, the purpose and meaning of the festival has evolved. In its youth, Holi was a ceremony for married women to bestow well-being and prosperity on their new family and marriage.
One of the most important modern themes of Holi is the triumph of good over evil. While there are many stories of the origin of the festival, a popular version tells the story of an evil king, Hiranyakashipu, who became so powerful that he forced his subjects to worship him as their god.
The king’s son, Prahlada, chose to worship the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu instead of his father, so the king plotted to kill his son by burning him in a pyre. When the pyre was lit, the son’s devotion to Vishnu protected him, and he walked away unscathed from the fire.
The Hindu color festival is most popular in India, but Holi celebrations happen all over the world. Celebrations and customs depend on the region, with singing and dancing being an especially important part of celebrations in West Bengal, while in Mathura and Vrindavan celebrations are more centered in religious observance, because that’s where Lord Krishna is said to have grown up.
Holi is a very fun, lighthearted celebration of joy, community and the return of the warmth of spring and summer. Throughout the trials and struggles that the cold winter may bring, the warmth melts the ice, and the good inevitably topples all evil.