Indian festivals - Holi
The month of March was time for another Indian festival, Holi. The festival of colours was celebrated across the country during the early second week of March.
The festival is celebrated by smearing coloured powder and paste on one another and exchanging sweets. It is a festival to celebrate the end of winter and to welcome the spring. People do this by throwing "gulal (vermillion)" and coloured water at each other. On the day of Holi, therefore, it is usual to see "colourful" faces all around.
The literal meaning of the word "Holi" is "burning". The word has its genesis in a legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyapu.
According to the legends, there once lived a devil and powerful king Hiranyakashyapu who considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahlad, began to worship Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakashyapu asked his sister, Holika, to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap, as she had a boon to enter fire unscathed. But Prahlad was saved for his extreme devotion to the Lord while Holika was burnt to death. This story speaks of the triumph of good over evil. On the eve of Holi, therefore, bonfires are lit in a symbolic gesture of burning Holika.
The throwing of colours is associated with Lord Krishna who, according to the legends, used to apply colors on his beloved Radha and other "gopis". The legend also has answer as to why the naughty god Lord Krishna used to apply colours on Radha and "gopis". The story says Lord Krishna was jealous of Radha's fair complexion, because he himself was very dark. Naughty young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about this injustice of nature. To placate the child, the mother asked Krishna to apply colour on Radha's face and change her complexion according to his choice.
Children particularly enjoy the festival and they throw water-filled balloons at passersby while chanting "Bura na mano Holi hai (Don't get angry, it is Holi)". It is fun to watch (of course from a safe distance) these children armed with "pichkaris (toy water guns)" raring to drench every one who comes their way.
Meanwhile, during the last week of March, Gudhi Padwa, the New Year, was celebrated in Maharashtra. The festival of Gudhi Padwa is celebrated on the first day of the month of Chaitra and it marks not just the advent of a new year, but also the victory of the ancient Satvahana king Shalivahana over his enemies. The ruler's victory is commemorated by erecting the "Gudhi". It is believed that Lord Brahma created the universe on this day; therefore, this day carries special importance for the Hindus.
It is also said that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya on this day after vanquishing Ravana, and the people of Ayodhya celebrated this occasion.
The Gudhi is a bamboo pole, around which is tied a bright green or yellow piece of silk cloth. A metal pot, decorated with mango leaves and marigold flowers, is balanced atop the gudi. It is then hoisted and displayed outside the house.