“Holi” is also called ‘Holaka’ or ‘Phagwa’. Holi’s different celebrations come from various Hindu legends, although one is widely believed to be the most likely origin.

In it, the celebration’s name refers to Holika, the sister of the Hindu demon king Hiranyakashipu. The demon king was granted immortality with five powers:

1.He could be killed by neither animals nor humans.
2.He could be killed neither indoors nor outdoors.
3.He could be killed neither during the day nor at night.
4.He could be killed on neither land, water nor air.
5.He could be killed by neither projectile nor handheld weapons

When his immortality turned him evil and he began to kill anyone who disobeyed him, his son, Prahlad, decided to kill him. When the king found out, he asked his sister Holika for help; in their plan she would wear a cloak which stopped her from being harmed by fire and take Prahlad into a bonfire with her.

However the cloak flew from Holika’s shoulders while she was in the fire and covered Prahlad; he was protected but she burnt to death.

In the legend, the Lord Vishnu then appeared to kill Hiranyakashipu by sidestepping his five powers.

He took the form of Narasimha, who was half-human and half-lion; he met him on a doorstep, which is neither indoors nor outdoors; he appeared at dusk, which is neither daylight nor dusk; he placed his father on his lap, which is neither land, water nor air; and he attacked him with his lion claws, which are neither projectile nor handheld weapons.

While Hiranyakashipu and Holika came to represent evil, Vishnu and Prahlad came to represent good. The story shows the victory of good over evil, which is why it is tied to the festival.

The other most popular origin of the festival is the legend of Krishna. The festival of Holi is also associated with the enduring love between Lord Krishna (an incarnation of Vishnu) and Radha, and Krishna in general.

According to legend, the young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change. Because of this associated with Krishna, Holi is extended over a longer period in Vrindavan and Mathura, two cities with which Krishna is closely affiliated.

Krishna’s followers everywhere find special meaning in the joyous festival, as general frivolity is considered to be in imitation of Krishna’s play with the gopis (wives and daughters of cowherds).

Why gulal is thrown in the air?
The coloured powder – or gulal – thrown on the second day of the festival comes from the legend of Krishna. Anyone at Holi is fair game to be covered in the perfumed powder as a celebration of Krishna and Radha’s love, regardless of age or social status. The powder also signifies the coming of spring and all the new colours it brings to nature.

Historically, the gulal was made of turmeric, paste and flower extracts, but today synthetic versions are largely used.

The four main powder colours are used to represent different things. Red reflects love and fertility, blue is the colour of Krishna, yellow is the colour of turmeric and green symbolises spring and new beginnings.

(Source: Telegraph)

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