Holi (Festival of colors)

What is Holi?

Holi is a national holiday with regional holidays in other countries, in India and Nepal. Holi ‘s origins come from a mixture of Hindu myths like Hiranyakashyap ‘s famous legend-a demon king who wished to be immortal. He wanted everyone to worship him as god but instead he chose his own son, Prahlada, to worship Vishnu who insulted his father.

One day the demon king asked his sister Holika, who had a magic shawl that couldn’t catch fire, to sit with Prahlada in her lap on a raging fire. The shawl fell from the shoulders of the Holika onto Prahalada as the fire burned and she died though he survived. The god Vishnu then appeared and killed the demon king Hiranyakashyap, inspired by Prahalada ‘s devotion. The story of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva is another Hindi legend that has been remembered over Holi. Kaamadeva, the god of love, is believed to have woke Shiva from his deep sleep so that he could save the earth.

Holi 2020

Holi 2020

Holi is one of India’s largest festivals, and is celebrated annually on various dates. This wonderful Indian festival is celebrated in the month of March following the full Moon at the end of winters. A day before Holi a large bonfire is lit which helps to burn out the evil spirits and is called as Holika Dahan the whole process.

Holi Celebration Date 2020

Holi: 10th March 2020

Holika Dahan: 09th March 2020


Holi is a festival of colours, celebrated primarily in India. The festival falls on the last full moon day of Falgun according to Hindu calendar. It is celebrated sometime in the month of March, usually in the latter half of the month. According to mythology, the festival is celebrates the killing Holika, the sister of Hrinyakashyapu. The festival also holds significance with respect to end of winter season and the onset of summer season.

There is no comprehensive data to know the origins of the festival. However, Holi as we see it today is believed to have originated in Bengal, where the day was celebrated as Gaudiya Vaishnava festival. However, there are several mythological stories behind the origins of the festival. The most popular one is related to the killing of Holika. Mythology states that when Prahlad disobeyed the orders of Hrinyakashyapu and kept praying for Lord Vishnu, Hrinyakashyapu took the help of her sister, Holika, to kill him. Holika took Prahlad in her lap and sat in a bonfire as she had immunity against fire. However, to everyone’s amazement, Holika was burnt alive while Prahlad was unaffected. Thus, Holika Dahan is celebrated a day before Holi.

The festival is also believed to be a celebration of Radha’s undying love for Lord Krishna. Still another mythological tale states that when Lord Shiva destroyed Kamadeva, he later resurrected him for the sake of his wife Rati. However, Kamadeva was brought to life only as a mental image. The festival is believed to celebrate that event.

The festival is celebrated in different ways around the country, the most famous one being in Mathura. Here, the festival lasts for 16 days, and is primarily played with flowers. In large parts of India, the festival is celebrated with a lot of colours, water balloons and water guns. Parties are often organized across the length and breadth of the country where people dance to music and greet each other with colours. Sweets are an important part of the festival.

Holi is considered as one of the most revered and celebrated festivals of India and it is celebrated in almost every part of the country. It is also sometimes called as the “festival of love” as on this day people get to unite together forgetting all resentments and all types of bad feeling towards each other. The great Indian festival lasts for a day and a night, which starts in the evening of Purnima or the Full Moon Day in the month of Falgun. It is celebrated with the name Holika Dahan or Choti Holi on first evening of the festival and the following day is called Holi. In different parts of the country it is known with different names.

The vibrancy of colours is something that brings in a lot of positivity in our lives and Holi being the festival of colours is actually a day worth rejoicing. Holi is a famous Hindu festival that is celebrated in every part of India with utmost joy and enthusiasm. The ritual starts by lighting up the bonfire one day before the day of Holi and this process symbolizes the triumph of good over the bad. On the day of Holi people play with colours with their friends and families and in evening they show love and respect to their close ones with Abeer.

Stories of holi:

1 ) Krishna and Radharani


The Holi of Braj is famous all over India for its intimate connection with the divine deities and their love plays.

It is said that when Krishna was a young boy, he asked the reason for his dark colour while Radha was so fair.

His mother Yashoda playfully suggested that he should smear colour on Radha’s face too and change her complexion to any colour he wanted.

Captivated by the idea, Krishna proceeded to do so and thus, introduced the play of colors on Holi.

( Explanation. Even today, Holi is one of the most important festival of Braj, where the men of Nandgaon and women of Barsana play ‘latthmar Holi’ in the remembrance of the playful throw of colors by Krishna on ‘Gopis’ and their resistance. )

2 ) Sacrifice of Kamadeva

According to Hindu mythology, the world is looked after the Trinity of Gods – Lord Brahma, the creator; Lord Vishnu, the nurturer; and Lord Shiva, the destroyer.

According to a legend, Goddess Sati, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, one of the first sons of Lord Brahma, married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father.

Thus, Daksha did not invite her and her husband to a grand yagya arranged by him.

When Sati came to know about the event in her father’s house, she thought it to be a slip of mind and proceeded to participate in the event despite the warnings of her husband.

But once she reached there, she realized her fault and was infuriated by the insult of her husband.

As a penance for her disobedience, she entered the fire. When Lord Shiva came to know of her sudden demise, he was furious. Even after he controlled his anger, he started a severe meditation and renounced all work.

The world’s balance soon crumbled in his absence and Sati took rebirth as Goddess Parvati to try and win Lord Shiva’s heart and wake him up from his trance. She tried all ways to get the attention of Shiva.

When she had exhausted all her feminine ways, she invoked the help of Kamadava, the Indian cupid-god, who agreed to help her in the cause of the world despite the risks involved. He shot his love-arrow on Shiva’s heart.

Disturbed in his trance, Lord Shiva opened his third eye that fired anger and instantly incinerated Kamadeva. It is said that it was on the day of Holi that Kamadeva had sacrificed himself for the good of all beings.

Later, when Lord Shiva realized his mistake, he granted Kamadeva immortality in invisible form.

( Moral of the story: This incident of burning off kama is called kamadahana or Holi. As the lust was won over by Lord Shiva the kamadahana or Holi festival is celebrated as an event associating with the Bliss of God. So following kamadahana during holi, people put the powders on themselves and others remembering this victory over lust. )

3 ) Invincible Dhundhi

During the reign of Prithu, there was a terrible ogress called Dhundhi, who loved to devour innocent children.

She had performed severe penances and had won several boons from the deities that made her almost invincible. However, due to a curse of Lord Shiva, she was not so immune to the pranks and abuses of young boys as she was to weapons and arrows.

One day, the courageous boys of the village decided to get rid of her forever and chase her away from the village forever.

They got intoxicated on bhaang and drunk and then followed Dhundi to the limits of the village, beating drums, making loud noise, shouting obscenities and hurling insults at her and continued doing this until she left the village for good.

( Explanation: This is the reason that even today young boys are allowed to indulge themselves in rowdiness, using rude words and intoxication on Holi.

4 ) Bhakt Prahlad & Holika


There was a mighty demon king named Hirnakashyipu who had won all the three worlds of heaven, earth and hell and had thus, become very proud. He assumed that he could defeat even Lord Vishnu with his valour. He went to the extent that he had enforced a law that everybody would worship him instead of gods and deities.

However, his little son Prahlad refused to accept his commands and continued to worship Lord Vishnu with complete devotion. Infuriated by this defiance of his son, he ordered his soldiers to throw him down a hill. Praying fervently and having full faith in Lord Vishnu, Prahlad did not retract from his word. True to his faith, Lord Vishnu rescued him at the last moment.

Flustered by this news, Hirnakashyipu invoked the help of his sister Holika, who had a boon that she could walk through the fire unharmed to do away with his son.

The wicked aunt agreed to the evil desires of his brother and entered the fire with her nephew Prahlad.

However, the brother and sister had forgot that Holika could only enter the fire alone or she would perish. Thus, blessed by Lord Vishnu, the child Prahlad remained unharmed but Holika got burnt and died instantly.

Holi is thus celebrated to commemorate the death of the evil aunt, after whom the festival is named, and the new life granted to Prahlad for his devotion and faith. To this day, cow dung is hurled into the fire and obscenities are shouted at the Holi fire at some places to insult Holika.

( Moral of the Holika story: Those who love God shall be saved, and they that torture the devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes. When Holika was burnt, people abused her and sang the glories of the Lord and of His great devotee, Prahlad. In imitation of that, people even today use abusive language, but unfortunately forget to sing the praises of the Lord and His devotee! )

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.


History of Holi

Hiranyakashipu was a king in ancient India who was like a demon. He wanted to take revenge for the death of his younger brother who was killed by Lord Vishnu. So to gain power, the king prayed for years. He was finally granted a boon. But with this Hiranyakashipu started considering himself God and asked his people to worship him like God. The cruel king has a young son named Prahalad, who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahalad had never obeyed his father’s order and kept on worshiping Lord Vishnu. The King was so hard-hearted and decided to kill his own son, because he refused to worship him. He asked his sister ‘Holika’, who was immune to fire, to sit on a pyre of fire with Prahalad in her lap. Their plan was to burn Prahalad. But their plan did not go through as Prahalad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu throughout was safe, but Holika got burnt to ashes. The defeat of Holika signifies the burning of all that is bad. After this, Lord Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu. But it is actually the death of Holika that is associated with Holi. Because of this, in some states of India like Bihar , a pyre in the form of bonfire is lit on the day before Holi day to remember the death of evil.

But how did colours become part of Holi? This dates back to the period of Lord Krishna (reincarnation of LordVishnu. It is believed that Lord Krishna used to celebrate Holi with colours and hence popularized the same. He used to play Holi with his friends at Vrindavan and Gokul. They used to play pranks all across the village and thus made this a community event. That is why till date Holi celebrations at Vrindavan are unmatched.

Holi is a spring festival to say goodbye to winters. In some parts the celebrations are also associated with spring harvest. Farmers after seeing their stores being refilled with new crops celebrate Holi as a part of their happiness. Because of this, Holi is also known as ‘Vasant Mahotsava’ and ‘Kama Mahotsava’.

Holi is an ancient festival

Holi is one of the oldest Hindu festivals and it had probably started several centuries before the birth of Christ. Based of this is, Holi is mention in ancient religious books like, Jaimini’s Purvamimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutra.

Even the temples of ancient India have sculptures of Holi on walls. One of this is a temple from the 16th century in Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagar. The temple has many scenes from Holi sculpted on its walls showing princes and princesses along with their maids holding pichkaris to squirt water on royals.

Many medieval paintings such as a 16th century Ahmednagar painting, Mewar painting (circa 1755), Bundi miniature all depicts Holi celebrations in one way or the other.

Holi colours


Earlier, Holi colours used to be made from flowers of ‘tesu’ or ‘palash’ tree and known as gulal. The colours used to be very good for skin as no chemicals were used to make these. But amidst of all definitions of festivals, the definition of colours for sure have changed with time. Today people have started using harsh colours made from chemicals. Even fast colours are used to play Holi, which are bad and that is why many people avoid celebrating this festival. We should enjoy this age old festival with the true spirit of festivity.

Holi celebrations

Also, Holi is not a one day festival as celebrated in most of the states in India, but it is celebrated for three days.

Day 1 – On full moon day (Holi Purnima) coloured powder and water are arranged in small brass pots on a thali. The celebration begins with the eldest male member who sprinkles colour on the members of his family.

Day 2- This is also known as ‘Puno’. On this day Holika’s images are burnt and people even light bonfires to remember the story of Holika and Prahalad. Mothers with their babies take five rounds of the bon- fire in a clockwise direction to seek the blessing of the God of fire.

Day 3- This day is known as ‘Parva’ and this is the last and final day of Holi celebrations. On this day coloured powder and water is poured on each other. The deities of Radha and Krishna are worshipped and smeared with colours

Where is Holi celebrated?

Holi is mostly celebrated in India and Nepal, but the colourful festival is popular worldwide with many non Hindus choosing to take part too.

How is Holi celebrated?


Holi kicks of with the legend of Hiranyakashyap being celebrated on the eve of Holi or “Holika dahan.” People spend the days in the lead up to it gathering wood and materials for large bonfires.

The bonfires are built with effigies of Holika on top of them and then burnt, typically after sunset.

The lighting of the bonfires symbolises the triumph of good over evil and some taking part will smear themselves with the ashes for purification.

People gather at the fires to pray for the longevity of their loved ones, as well as singing and dancing around the flames.

Colour fights

In North and West India Holi celebrations start in earnest on the day after the bonfires.

This is a day for partying and children and young people will arm themselves with bright dry colours, water guns, balloons and paints to throw and cover each other in colour with.

The coloured powders are often made from plant-based ingredients, like turmeric, neem and kum kum.

The streets become a huge colour fight and people become are covered in the vibrant paint.

People also smear dry powder known as gulal, on each others’ faces.

As well as playing with colours, people, drink, play music and sing and dance.

The after party

The second day of Holi is a quieter affair.

Revellers bathe and clean up before dressing up in the evening and going to visit relatives and friends and exchange sweets.

Holi is also a time for forgiveness and new starts. It’s a time for peace and unity.

PS: I humbly request all the devotees to please forward and share this moral / instructive stories they hear so that everyone can be benefited by hearing about Krishna and his dear devotees.

Holi Messages

“May you have the most blessed holi festival than you ever had.
May it be full of fun,joy and love.
May you be as colorful as the festival itself or even more.
Lets all have lots of fun.”

“Play more, drink less,
enjoy more, think less.
Have a cheerful Holi! “

” Sending love with red, friendship with pink, wisdom with yellow and new beginnings with green.
Have a colorful and happy Holi!

” May all the seven colors of the rainbow come together this Holi and bless your life with happiness and joy.
Have a Happy Holi! “

” Hope God paints the canvas of your life with beautiful colors.
Happy Holi to you and Family!! “

” Holi is the festival of colors.
I wish with all my heart that it brings more colors to your life.
Wishing you and your family a fabulous Holi! “

” Rang lekar khelte gulal, lekar khelte Radha sang Holi Nand lal khelte…
Bolo sara rara
Happy Holi!! “

” May the lovely colours of life, happiness and love fill your home this Holi and always.
Have a great Holi! “

” Wishing you and your family a fabulous Holi.
May the festival bring excitement in your life. “

” Khaa key gujiya,
pee key bhaang,
laaga ke thoda thoda sa rang,
baja ke dholak aur mridang,
khele holi hum tere sang.

” Rango Ke Tyohar Me
Sabhi Rango Ki Ho Bharmar
Dher Saari Khushiyo Se Bhara Ho Aapka Sansar
Yahi Dua hai Hamari Har bar “

About the author

Abhimanyu Sharma

Hi...I am Abhimanyu Sharma, a web developer and designer living in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India.

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