For many of us, March 20th marks the first day of spring – the vernal equinox, the transition of dark to light, cold to warmth, snow to flowers and pants to shorts – and we can’t wait for it. But for some, spring marks more than a change in seasons. It symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, and it’s already here!
On March 2nd, people across the world celebrated the beautiful holiday of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, which marks the beginning of spring, celebrated in cultures across the world. And what better way to celebrate spring than with color!
The festival of colors begins on the evening of Purnima (Full Moon Day). On the night of the full moon, a bonfire is lit to re-enact the cremation of the female demon Holika. Holika plotted with her brother, the demon king, to kill the king’s son. Believing she was immune to the flames, Holika carried the king’s son into the fire. It is believed that the son was saved by the god Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe, while Holika perished in the fire. Participants in the festival gather around the bonfire to sing and dance to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
The following day, known as Rangwali Holi, streets burst with color! Everyone is fully armed with colored water balloons and dry colored powder. Anyone and everyone is fair game as colors are thrown all over each other. A free-for-all color war!
Why colored powder? The tradition stems from the mythological love story of Radha and Krishna. Krishna, a Hindu god with blue skin, was sadden by Radha’s fair completion. His mother suggested that he apply color to Radha’s face to make them similar, inspiring the tradition of applying color to the face of a loved one during Holi.
Each color has its own meaning. Red powder symbolizes love and fertility. Blue represents Krishna, the Hindu god of compassion, tenderness and love. White stands for purity. Yellow is for the color of turmeric, which originated in and is of great importance to Southern India. And green symbolizes new beginnings.
It might be time to start thinking about what colors you would use because the celebration of Holi is spreading across the world. Outside India and Nepal, Holi is now celebrated in Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Mauritius, Fiji, United Kingdom, Canada and the US. That’s right, the US!
Find a city close to you that is hosting a festival. Grab your colors, and go with friends and family to celebrate love, compassion and friendship.
Happy Holi and Happy Spring!