The most colorful time of the year is almost here! Do you have your gulal ready? Or perhaps the more mischievous among you are arming yourselves with pichkaris and water balloons? No matter your gadget of choice, it’s guaranteed to be a day of glorious color. But why do we have this crazy, messy, exuberant celebration? Read on to learn all about Holi, including a legend of the battle between good and evil, why you’ll be drenched in the colors of the rainbow, and the festival’s intoxicating unofficial drink.
Prahlad and Holika: a legend of fire
The name “Holi” comes from Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashyap. Hiranyakashyap had a son named Prahlad who worshiped Vishnu fiercely. This made Hiranyakashyap unhappy, since he thought his son should worship him. The demon king was so angry that he asked Holika to help kill Prahlad. She was to take him in her lap into a fire, where he would perish while she, protected by the gods, would remain unscathed. But because Holika was using her power for evil, her protection vanished and she was reduced to ashes. Prahlad, on the other hand, was shielded from the flames by Vishnu, who killed Hiranyakashyap and let Prahlad rule in his stead as a good, wise king.
That is why we have big bonfires on the eve of Holi — to remember that good always triumphs over evil.
Krishna and Radha: a jealousy turned playful
Once, Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda that Radha has beautiful pale skin while his own complexion is blue. So she said, why not change Radha’s skin color by covering her with paints of different hues? Krishna thought that was a great idea and proceeded to do just that, giving rise to the tradition of decorating loved ones with colorful powders and paints during Holi.
Blue, of course, celebrates Lord Krishna and his blue skin. Yellow is associated with the Hindu faith and with strength. Red naturally is a popular color, being symbolic of love, beauty, and fertility. And if you’re covered in green, that’s because it signals the harvest and new beginnings.
Raise a glass
With all the festivities, you’re bound to get thirsty! Bhang is pretty much considered the official drink of Holi, and this is one sipper that’ll take your celebration to a whole other level. A blend of milk, garam masala, almonds, and rosewater, bhang is a fragrant brew made intoxicating by the addition of marijuana. Here’s a recipe for you to whip up a batch beforehand and sip from to keep the merriment going all day long!
Things have gotten wilder since the original festival of color between Krishna and Radha, and celebrants today gleefully smear and spray perfect strangers. And as Indians settle in other countries, Holi is fast becoming one, big worldwide celebration. Festivals have sprung up in all corners of the globe, from Africa to Europe to North America.
Tell us what you have planned for Holi this year!by