Know the Sociocultural and Biological Significance of Holi Festival


Sunil Kumar and Dr. Indrajeet Tyagi

Holi is a Sanatani spring festival characterized by joy, color, and the celebration of new beginnings. Holi is a lunar or a full moon day celebration that falls on in the month of Phalgun, as per the Sanatana calendar. This year, Holi will take place on March 24, bringing with it a spirit of unity and excitement. The Holi is one of the ancient festival that commemorates the return of spring after a long winter and also symbolizes good triumphing over evil and has a cultural significance in the Indian subcontinent.

The budding of flora is an anticipation to rich harvest for the year. In celebration of this, all the members of communities come together to dance, smear colored powder, and throw water balloons at each other to end and get rid of ones past errors or conflicts, people either pay off or forgive debts by meeting others.

In deduction, it is an auspicious day to forget and forgive. Holi, the Festival of Colors that began in India thousands of years ago, has since been celebrated across Bharat and, across the globe now. The celebrations are lively and community-oriented no matter where they take place.

Are there many stories behind this festival?

Holi’s traditions vary throughout the country and have their roots in Sanatani mythologies.

1) One of the core stories behind the festival is the legend of Hiranyakashyapa demon king who demanded that everyone worship him as a god and enlisted the help of his sister, Holika, to kill his son, Prahlada, a devoted worshipper of Vishnu, which highlights the legend of good and evil here. The complete submission to God saved young Prahlad. Thus Prahlad, the representative of good triumphed while Holika the symbol of evil was defeated. It is from Holika that Holi originated. This legend is remembered today, on the Holi-eve, the pyre is re-lit in the form of bonfires to symbolize the burning of Holika and to celebrate “good” over “evil”.

2) It also commemorates the color fight and the enduring love between Lord Krishna and Radha.

3) In the legend titled, ‘Chasing away Dhundhi.’ In this, boys were allowed to indulge themselves in rowdiness and rude words to keep the ogress Dhundhi away, because he was one of the most treacherous demons but was exceptionally vulnerable to the mischiefs and wilderness of the young boys.

4) People of southern Bharat; celebrate Holi to commemorate Kamadeva’s sacrifice who was burned on Holi by Lord Shiv.

5) At some other places, Holi is also celebrated to remark the end of Pootana, as she was killed the night before Holi Pootana was also represented as winter and her end remarked the victory of Krishna over the demonic forces.

6) In some regions, the focus of the celebrations shift to seek blessings for good harvest, commemorating ancestors, celebrating victories of our Gods.

Celebration of the various legends associated with Holi reassure the people of the power of the truth as the moral lesson of all these legends is the ultimate victory of good over evil.

Why it is celebrated as Harvest festival?

Besides a spring festival, it is also celebrated as the harvest festival of the winter crop of Rabi namely wheat, barley, mustard, chickpeas, lentils, peas, oats, linseed, and safflower. These crops get ripe and the corns of wheat and others become golden. When the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest. Therefore, Holi means a joyful celebration of new harvest to the farmers and bubbling with joy and excitement at the prospect of prosperity, they offer their first crop to Agnidev, the god of Fire who revered with love and esteem by the Aryans. Only after offering of their first harvest to Agnidev, the farmers use the crop for their personal consumption. Good harvest is the reason to rejoice, make merry, and submerge themselves in the spirit of Holi.

How the festival of colors became the community celebration?

The origin of this exuberant festival and the colorful and frolicking tone of Holi lies in the playful pranks of Krishna such as drenching the village girls, the Gopis and Radha. This tradition has transpired through the ages, turning it into a community festival. Traditionally, Holi colors were derived from natural sources like leaves, fruits, roots etc. in powders or liquid splashes form. These natural plants used in making Holi colors have the healing and refreshing properties and rejuvenate the skin.

Holi is a vibrant, energetic and multi-colored two-day celebration of love, color, and abundance that takes place every year at the arrival of spring. Some states have elaborate processions and playing colors up to two weeks!  There are showcases of dances, music concerts, and processions  but traditional folk songs and dances take the center stage along with selective Bollywood songs that resonate with the Holi festival. Holi brings together people e of all backgrounds and celebrated it as a day for fun and playfulness with dancing, playing colors, and eating. In some regions, exchanging sweets with loved ones is practiced.

How do you celebrate Holi? 

Holi is a two-day festival. Each year, Holika Dahan ritual occurs on Purnima, the day of the full moon. At night, a great bonfire is lit, symbolically burning away all of the bad from the year before. Then, the following day, known as Dhuleti/Dhulandi, color flare up everywhere. The tradition of throwing colored powders and water on one another has been said to originate with the story of Lord Krishna and Radha. Lord Krishna fell in love with Radha but was embarrassed by his blue skin, as she was fair-skinned and beautiful. During a game, he covered her face with colored powders in a playful attempt to make the two of them look more alike. This love story is remembered through the enduring colorful traditions of Holi. The blue powder is said to honor Krishna, the god of love, compassion, and protection. Red and green colors represent fertility, and new beginnings, respectively.

Holi is a time for having self-reflection, as people come together to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and look to the future with hope and excitement. It is taking the time to think about, meditate on, evaluate, and give serious thought to your behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, motivations, and desires. Holi gives the mind an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, unravel and sort through observations, and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then enlighten future mindsets and actions.

What is cultural, social and biological significance of Holi?

This is extremely important in the modern day society where many people indulge in evil practices for small gains and torture one who is honest. All these Holi legends help the people to follow good virtues, conduct in their lives, and fight away the evil practices through truthfulness and honesty. Ultimately, only good virtues win!

Holi helps to bring the society together and strengthen the secular fabric of our country. For, Hindus and non-Hindus, rich and poor together celebrate the festival with a spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood. People forget any feelings of hatred and animosity that may be present and turn their enemies into friends. People visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings. This helps in revitalizing relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between people.

As Holi comes at a time of the year when people have a tendency to feel sleepy and lazy due to the change from the cold to the heat in the atmosphere. Singing, dancing, and playing with natural dye helps to rejuvenate the system by strengthening the ions in the human body and adds health and beauty to it. As a tradition when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation or going around) around the Holika Dahan fire, and putting ash (Vibhuti) on their forehead kill the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.

People also cleanup their houses on Holi, which helps in clearing up the dust and mess in the house, and get rid of mosquitoes and others pests. A clean house generally makes the people feel good and generate positive energies.

Also ReadEmirates special Holi offerings onboard select flights to India on March 24 -25