Holi is one of the biggest and most colourful festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated throughout India in
early spring with cheer and gaiety. Holi comes when the cold winter months give way to summer. The crops have been cut, threshed, and stored or sold away.
The farmer and his wife are free, and money is in hand. This festival falls on the full moon during the month of Phagun some time in February or March,
which is conducive to getting out and about. Everyone is generally full of cheer.
Holi is associated to a great extent with Lord Krishna, who in his childhood and youth., ran around with his band of cowherds and maidens of the village,
completely captivating everyone. He loved festivity, and the hamlets of Brindavan, Gokul and Barsana were full of fun and frolic.
Lord Krishna played Holi with so must gust that even today the songs sung during Holi are full of the pranks that he played on the Gopis and the Gopis played on him,
especially those on his childhood sweetheart Radhika, who lived in Barsana. She remained the heart throb and none of his eight wives could ever take her place.
Holi is played with pichkaris (brass water-guns which squirts water in a spray or even in a straight line) and Gulal.
Gulal is made up of numerous colours such as pink, magenta, red, yellow and green, along with Abeer (small crystals or paper-like chips of mica).
Abeer and gulal are an essential part of Holi Folk Songs.
Then comes the day of Puno, when Holi is 'burnt' in the evening. Usually, it is a community celebration and big bonfires (made up of dried leaves
and branches left through the winter) are lit on crossroads. People do pujan and bring green sheafs of gram known as 'boot', to be roasted black with shells on; wheat shears are also roasted likewise.
They are then taken out of shells and eaten right there. One gets quite black in the face and the hands, but it is very enjoyable nonetheless, and the stuff is quite tasty.
Bonfires date back to the days of Hiranyakashyap, when he ordered his son Prahlad (the great devotee of Lord Narayan) to be burnt alive, because Hiranyakashyap was an Asur and
hated Lord Narayan. He asks sister Holika, to wear the set of clothes she possessed which could not catch fire. She was told to hold Prahlad on her lap tightly, so that he could not escape while in flames.
Holika was a very good soul; she quietly transferred the clothes onto Prahlad and got burnt herself, thus saving Prahlad to grow up and be the greatest bhakt of Lord Vishnu.
To celebrate this great event the bonfire is still lit.
It is also said that the festival is also a celebration of the death of Pootna - the demon who nearly killed Lord Krishna.
The effigy of Pootna burnt the night before, therefore, ends up signifying death itself just as Pootna typifies winter and darkness.
The next day is the real day of Holi. This day is called Parva. From the morning onwards, people gather and play Holi. They visit each other's houses, carrying colour and water,
drenching each other as they visit different places. Some get on to two-wheelers, cars and trucks and visit people living far away; others choose to play with their neighbours.
There is no Puja associated with Holi, except putting a little colour on the faces of the gods, at the begining of the festival.
Holi is supposed to be an exuberant show of goodwill and cheer. The riot of colours follows a revelry of colour play - quite unmatched in its boisterousness - and takes place amidst
the sprinkling or the shower of coloured powder or combined with water. Everybody is welcome and everybody is pardoned for his or her revelry.