Holi (Sanskrit: होली) is a festival of colors celebrated throughout the world among Hindus. The greater occasion is expressed by the vibrant use of colors used to smear each other for fun. Also known as Phalgun Purnima (Phalgun=11th month of Hindu calender and Purnima=Full Moon), Holi signifies the ancient practice of merrymaking when a mythical demon Holika was killed by Prahlada, signifying the good overcoming the evil.
The day differs every year because the event is observed during full moon. This year, it falls on March 16 in Nepal and March 17 in India.
Holi is an important festival for Hindus, widely observed during spring or on the last full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in March and sometimes in late February. India and Nepal are the two major nations where it is observed both as a public holiday and festival. Because of its nature of fun and integrity, even it has been introduced in many European and American cities, where the locals are seen observing the event joyously.
It has been observed since ages. Many Hindu scriptures mentions Holi as an important festival celebrated throughout medieval India —The whole city would gather in a place and throw water or smear colors on each other.
Generally, washable natural colors derived from Turmeric, Neem, Dhak and Kumkum were to be used earlier. Today, mainly water-based commercial pigments are used.
Colors and Bhaang (Ecstasy drink) are two major components of any Holi. Colors for obvious reasons, whereas, Bhaang is relished because people tend to loose themselves and have fun as the after effect.
Legend has it, the word “Holi” originated from “Holika,” the sister of mythical Demon king Hiranyakashipu.
The king supposedly earned a boon from the god and was invinsible. In his blinded arrogance, he declared himself the God and demanded others to pray to him. His own son, Prahlada, who remained devout to Vishnu (Hindu Trinity) however, disagreed. One day, Holika tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to fire. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from her and encased Prahlada protecting him and burning Holika into ashes instead. The bonfire, Holika Daha, is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil or the burning of Holika.
The night before Holi, similar pyres are burnt widely in various parts of North India, Nepal and South India in keeping with the ancient tradition. In old days, people use to contribute a piece of wood or two for Holika bonfire.
~Celebration in Nepal~
Inhabitants of Nepal have started observing the event ever since Hindu migrants arrived in the city from different parts of India. Though, it’s doesn’t has an old history, the celebration is widely observed by the people. The low-land Terai of Nepal observes the event most. Similar to their Indian counterparts, they celebrate the day performing religious rituals followed by merry-making and color smearing.
Scene in Kathmandu
People in Kathmandu enjoy this greater festival. The day is declared a public holiday, thus, giving people access to roam around the city, participating in various fairs held in different areas. Those who don’t make it outside their home tend to play indoors with relatives and friends. Kids are mostly seen throwing water-filled balloons over the passer-by.
In recent times, even foreign tourists and expats staying in the city tend to observe and attend the festival. It’s a common scene on the day to witness foreigners splashing water onto themselves, smearing colors, drinking Bhaang and dancing on the tunes of melodic Hindi and Nepali tracks.