Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, has probably come to your attention via photos on the web that have been shared in the past, if you’ve seen it, you’ll know it. It’s like a Technicolor explosion of costumes and jewelry topped off by colored, perfumed powders that the celebrants throw all over each other. I mean, true beautiful celebratory chaotic bliss…
Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (or the burning of Holika – hang on for that mythos). After doing lighting the fire prayers are said and thanks and praises are offered.
The bonfires memorialize the miraculous feats that the mythic young Prahlada pulled off. He was poisoned, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All attempts to kill Prahlada failed. Reminds me of Rasputin; a little bit like Daniel in the lion’s den.
Finally, he was made to sit on a pyre on the lap of his demoness sister, Holika, who could not die because she had a boon (love that word) which would prevent fire from burning her. Prahlada submitted, and then prayed to Vishnu. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed (Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego); this burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
It’s the end of the winter’s harshness (this is a Northern Hindu festival, not so common in the South). It’s the return of life and the promise of regeneration. It’s a celebration of triumph through steadfastness, and it appears to be a rocking good time where folks of many different backgrounds all drop the traditional societal norms and intermingle more freely and celebrate together.
Why do Westerners dye eggs (fertility) bright colors to celebrate the return to life at this time of the year? We all need cause to celebrate, and the lunar and solar circles are part of the thread that has been woven since at least when our ancestors started standing rocks on ends and marking shadows and finding the wheel days.
It’s important to make time out of time, where the rules of who interacts with who can be broke, where joy and lightheartedness can be experienced in the midst of this very real struggle that many call living. So, really, make it a Holi day, celebrate and give thanks and praise. And if you’ve got it, throw perfumed colored powder all over willing recipients!
We’re not here for a long time; make sure it’s a good time!