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Holi - the Indian radiant festival

by KRITINOVA INDIA on March 14, 2024

Holi, the Indian radiant festival of Fire and Colours. The celebration on Holi brings energy of purification, joy, harmony and unity.  There is a deeper significance, intertwining science, tradition, and the essence of rejuvenation behind this well-celebrated festival of India.

Why this day for Chhoti Holi or Holi?

Holi marks the arrival of spring, bidding farewell to the cold winter and welcoming the warmth of summer. This transition from winter to summer is a period where the body undergoes adjustments to adapt to changing weather conditions. So, people often experience  skin issues leading to infections, high fever, loss of appetite and unwanted particle accumulations. And naturally people experience mood-swings due to discomfort in body and the environment.

Holika Dahan and the application of vibrant colour powders or water during Holi serve as natural remedies for these concerns.

Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi : A Fire Purification Ritual

Agni, the first word of the Rigveda, represents the Supreme Entity that purifies, illuminates and the source of powerful energy. Rigveda glorifies the fire and its importance in human life the most. Rigveda is full of such mantras:

अग्नी॑षोमावि॒मं सु मे॑ शृणु॒तं वृ॑षणा॒ हव॑म्। प्रति॑ सू॒क्तानि॑ हर्यतं॒ भव॑तं दा॒शुषे॒ मयः॑ ॥ (1.93.1)

अवे॒यम॑श्वैद्युव॒तिः पु॒रस्ता॑द्यु॒ङ्क्ते गवा॑मरु॒णाना॒मनी॑कम्। वि नू॒नमु॑च्छा॒दस॑ति॒ प्र के॒तुर्गृ॒हंगृ॑ह॒मुप॑ तिष्ठाते अ॒ग्निः ॥(1.124.11)

So, as per ancient Vedic teachings and practices we celebrate Chhoti Holi. As per Hindu calendar Chhoti Holi occurs every year on Shukla Paksha Purnima of the Phalguna month. This is the day to worship “FIRE”.

Cow dung cakes and dry wood & leaves from trees, especially semal tree known for its medicinal properties in curing heart and skin diseases, are used to construct Holika. Additionally, generous amounts of pure ghee and the finest available oils are poured into the Holika before igniting the fire. Subsequently, a variety of offerings are made into the fire including coconut with husk, sugarcane, Indian popcorn (dhani), rice sev, Batasha (crystallized sugar candy), wheat, moong dal, mishri, flowers, akshat, kumkum, gulal, turmeric, and other pooja samagri.

Once holika starts radiating the most important ritual to perform is Parikrama (circling the fire).  This close proximity to the fire offers physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

The heat from the fire effectively cleanses and purifies the body, helps in skin diseases. Psychologically, the ritual represents the burning away of negativity, paving the way for a fresh start. Spiritually, the fire cleanses the aura and supports inner tranquillity.

This array of materials (havi or Dravya) we offer in fire can protect and purifies the environment. As Rigveda rightly said:

त्रिः स॒प्त यद्गुह्या॑नि॒ त्वे इत्प॒दावि॑द॒न्निहि॑ता य॒ज्ञिया॑सः। तेभी॑ रक्षन्ते अ॒मृतं॑ स॒जोषाः॑ प॒शूञ्च॑ स्था॒तॄञ्च॒रथं॑ च पाहि ॥(1.72.6)

This 6th mantra from Mandal 1, Sukta 72 of Rigveda reveals the significance of yagna and the offerings we make in its sacred fire. It explains that such offerings, known as Havi (हवि) or Dravya (द्रव्य) can protect the humanity from both known and unknown diseases. Moreover, they serve to safeguard the environment, extending protection to animals, birds, trees and the entire creation of the Paramatma. Naturally such unpolluted and healthful environment leads you to have happy, productive and prosperous life. One can contribute wholeheartedly to nurture the society and make the earth happy place.

Natural Colours: Healing and Nourishing

Traditionally, Holi colours have been derived from natural sources, each imbued with unique healing properties. From turmeric (haldi) for vibrant yellows, spinach for lush greens, Rose petals for pretty pink or  hibiscus flowers for ruby red - these natural pigments were used to create colourful waters and powders for the festive celebrations. The list further adds up neem, mehdi, bilva, palash, tulsi, chandan, marigold flowers, pomegranate fruit, blueberries, black grapes, beetroot and spinach.

The playful pouring and throwing of these natural colour powders / water have a profound healing effect on the human body. Utilizing such organic sources during Holi serves as a natural defence against infections, boosts immunity, and enhances overall health and beauty, enriching the festive experience with their therapeutic benefits. This is the authentic, Indian style “Satvik Holi”.

Rejuvenation through Music and Movement:

The transition from cold to hot weather often induces lethargy in individuals. Traditional songs, accompanied by instruments like Dhol and Manjira, are sung during Holi celebrations to revitalize the surroundings, body, and mind. Singing, dancing, music, and eating together has its own significance to boost mood and energy, raising community spirit and unity. And of course The joyous shout of "Holi hai..." fills the air with a burst of laughter to the festivities and brings a contagious smile to people's faces.

So, our wise ancestors have gifted us celebrative solutions to promote overall wellness of an individual and the society too.

Embracing Holi Across India:

In the diverse tapestry of India, Holi is celebrated with unparalleled fervour and grandeur, transcending boundaries of states and communities. Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, resonates with the echoes of joy during Holi. In Vrindavan, the "Phoolon Wali Holi" involves showering flowers on devotees amidst chants of "Radhe Radhe." The historic city of Varanasi, with its ghats illuminated by the glow of fires during Holika Dahan, epitomizes the essence of tradition and devotion.

Rajasthan, known for its regal charm, hosts a royal spectacle during Holi. The Pink City of Jaipur comes alive with the "Elephant Festival," where majestic elephants adorned in vibrant colors parade through the streets. In the desert city of Jaisalmer, locals and tourists alike revel in the joyous spirit of Holi amidst the majestic sand dunes, accompanied by traditional Rajasthani folk music and dance.

The colourful state of Gujarat adds its unique flavour to Holi celebrations with the vibrant festival of "Dhuleti." Gujarat transforms into a kaleidoscope of colours as celebrators take to the streets, spraying coloured water and indulging in traditional Gujarati sweets like "Gujia" and "Thandai."

Hola Mohalla, an annual fair in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, takes place the day after Holi.  This tradition, initiated by Guru Gobind Singh in 1701. The event demonstrate Gatka (Sikh martial arts) and mock battles. Visitors can enjoy langars - community kitchens offering food as sewa. Also, the grandeur of large, colourful turbans always become the spotlight of the event. This grand event attracts thousands of visitors every year, contributing to its significance in Indian culture.

In conclusion, Holi harmonizes tradition, science, and spirituality, exemplifying India's rich festival heritage. Also, Indian festivals uplifts the overall economy of the nation and supports vocal for local. Let’s Celebrate Satvik Holi with joy and unity.

Happy Holi!