Holi, the spring festival of India, one of the most beautiful shows on the planet . This tradition has crossed borders and is currently celebrated annually in some Western countries, although few know that it is celebrated. In the following lines we will reveal its meaning and discover its origin.
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What is Holi
Contrary to most festivities celebrated in the West, Holi (or “Holi” in Sanskrit) is not linked to any religious motive . This tradition arose at the end of the 19th century in the countries of South Asia, mainly in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
In general terms, we can define it as a popular Hindu tradition to welcome spring , but it symbolizes much more than that. It is the cycle of life, leaving behind the mistakes of the past to make way for something new. It is also a day to forget and forgive, and what better way to represent that new beginning than through colored powders.
The Holi audience is essentially made up of young people whoThey gather at the foot of the temples to throw colored powder at each other and create an immense multicolored cloud. How did all this start
? When is it celebrated?
Each region sets a specific date, although it always has to do with the arrival of spring. Therefore, Holi is celebrated during the last days of February or the first days of March .
Origin of Holi
We have already pointed out that Holi does not have a historical religious origin, but even so, many associate the festival with Hindu mythology and, specifically, with one of the most relevant myths.
It is said that King Hiranyakashipu believed himself to be the only god his people should worship. However, his son Prahlada rebelled against him and continued to worship Vishnu, a brave act that angered the king. Then the evil sister of the monarch, called Holika (hence the name of the holiday) , decided that the only solution was to kill the rebellious firstborn.
Crowd at one of the many Holi celebrations. | Image from: EFE.
Jolika invited her nephew to sit on a pyre with her, who was wearing a cloak with which he could not burn. Suddenly, the mantle changed wearer by the work and grace of the god Vishnu and Jolika was consumed in the flames. That is why huge bonfires burn during Holi .
Holi is an undeniable cultural asset and varies according to the region of Asia in which we find ourselves. However, there is always a common element: it is the festival of happiness and color, a date to forgive and forget the past.
About the colored powders that have made this festival so popular, they are made from herbs by Ayurveda (Hindu doctors) . As a result of the commercialization of the festival and the arrival of mass tourism, the use of synthetic colors has increased, so some of these powders can become toxic.
For this reason, tourists are advised to shield their eyes and keep their mouths shut .
The powders are called gulau and symbolize aspects of Hindu culture. Red is for love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow represents turmeric, and green welcomes spring.
Holi and freedom
Another striking aspect of Holi is that some of the most obvious social barriers are removed. During the first days of March, rich and poor have a good time, although it is the women who most notice that sudden feeling of freedom .
However, the debauchery that is experienced in Holi and the consumption of a cannabis puree called bhang can also lead to an environment of machismo and crime. Complaints of sexual abuse and rape are a constant and, unfortunately, in India where the aggressors mostly go unpunished.
Two men wait in a doorway during Holi. | Image from: EFE.
The festival of colors is especially crowded in Mombai and Delhi . These cities are two of the safest environments to experience this tradition, since the colors are free of toxins and the surveillance is stricter (although to a certain extent permissive).
5 places to celebrate Holi
Below we present the best places or cities to fully enjoy this fantastic experience.
This enclave will allow us to experience a ritual called holika dahan, in which the royal family of the principality of Mewar is seen . The jolika bonfire is spectacular, although there is no trace of the colored powders.
2. Anandpur Sahib
A different way of living this tradition. Go back to the 18th century to see the performances of Punjabi soldiers , with a physical ability that borders on the supernatural. A city tour is also available.
Enjoy a pleasant and safe environment in an environment adapted for tourists. Apart from the gulau powders, you will find gastronomy on every corner (for the bravest) and music festivals.
We now move south to discover one of the places where Holi is celebrated in a more intense way . Everyone plays with colors and, in the evening, people go into the river to clean themselves.
Animal advocates have criticized the celebration in this region of the country, and that is that the locals paint the elephants with bright colors . We cannot forget that the elephant is a sacred animal throughout India and the goal is still to have a great time.
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