Bhubaneswar, Mar 19: Holi, the much-awaited festival for everyone, is a festive day to enjoy the fullest. It’s a special day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive and repair broken relationships. The festival adds colours to life. It signifies the victory of good over evil and is celebrated as a day of spreading happiness and love. The festival is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with Holika Dahan, where people perform rituals in front of a bonfire, praying for their inner evil to be destroyed, just as Holika was killed in fire.
According to Bhagavata Purana, King Hiranyakashipu–the king of demonic Asuras, who could neither be killed by a man or an animal–grew arrogant and demanded that everybody should worship him as a god. But his little son Prahlada refused to do so as he was a devout follower of Vishnu, the great Preserver of the Universe.
Hiranyakashipu was infuriated and subjected his son to cruel punishments. Finally, Holika, the king’s sister, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. While Holika protected herself with a cloak, Prahlada remained exposed. As the fire blazed, the cloak flew from Holika’s body and encased Prahlada, thus saving his life.
Later, Vishnu appeared in the avatar of Nrusingha, half man and half lion, and killed the king. This is why Holi begins with the Holika bonfire, which marks the end of evil.
The carnival of colours begins the next morning, where people come out on the streets to play with colours, and drench each other in coloured water through water guns or balloons.
Lord Krishna plays Holi with the Gopis
In the legends of Krishna as a youth, used to play pranks with the Gopis. One prank was to through coloured powder all over them. So on Holi, images of Krishna are often carried through the streets. People from Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna celebrate the festival with much fervour. Holi is also associated with the Divine Dance known as Raaslila staged by Lord Krishna for the benefit of his devout Gopis.