It’s no secret – I hate winter. I loathe being cold, detest snow and hate the long dark days. (OK I concede that a wild winter’s night can be cosy with the heating on, candles burning and the curtains drawn tight to shut out the weather)
Spring is finally here! Winter is over for another year!
For me, one of the first signs of spring is the arrival of that first day when I am able to drive home from work without having to put the car’s headlights on. That always feels like a small moral victory.
Seeing all the spring flowers appear makes the world a more colourful place. Who can resist daffodils, crocuses and tulips?
Hearing the birds singing in the trees and bushes, bursting with buds, is a beautiful sound (Perhaps with the exception of that wee bird that sits out the back of our house going Twee Twee Twee at the top if it’s voice!)
Spring truly is something to celebrate!
Whilst I’m not a religious person Easter too signals the arrival of spring.
This year however an alternative spring festival has come to my attention.
In the salt mine, where I work in my “real world”, we work closely with colleagues based in India. This week we helped them to celebrate the Hindu festival Holi, also known as the Festival of Colours. We were all asked to come into work in colourful clothes – yes, I do actually own some clothes that aren’t black!
Curious to learn more about Holi, I did a little research that I thought I’d share with you all.
Holi is one of India’s most popular festivals and is celebrated on the full moon of the month of Phalguna in the Hindu calendar. This year that fell on 23rd March. Holi celebrates the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It also traditionally celebrates the victory of good over evil.
There are several legends associated with the Festival of Colours.
The story of Holika and Prahlad is one of the most important tales relating to the history of Holi. According to legend, there was a time when the entire world was ruled by a demon king, Hiranyakashyap. He was ruthless and expected everyone to worship him. Prahlad refused to. Instead Prahlad was devoted to Lord Naarayana, also known as Lord Vishnu. This was a huge issue for Hiranyakashyap because Prahlad was his son. On numerous occasions, the demon king tried to murder his son, only to be thwarted every time by Lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashyap enlisted some help to deal with Prahlad in the form of a demon called Holika. Holika was believed to be immune to the effects of fire. She enticed Prahlad into her clutches and, once he was within her reach, she grabbed him, sat him on her lap and sat them both in a pit of flames. Holika soon discovered to her cost that she was only immune to fire if she entered the flames alone. The fire consumed her. Prahlad emerged from the flames unharmed. He later learned the Lord Vishnu had granted him protection from the flames as a reward for his devotion.
A second legend associated with the Festival of Colours is the love story of Radha and Krishna.
When Lord Krishna was young, he was envious of the Radha’s fair skin. (Radha was a Hindu goddess). In an attempt to express his feelings of love and envy, Krishna rubbed colour onto Radha’s face. This act of “colouring” another person is now considered to be an expression of friendship and love.
So how is Holi celebrated?
On the eve of Holi, as midnight approaches, many people build large bonfires and gather round them to sing and dance and spend time with family and friends. The fire symbolises the death of Holika and the triumph of good over evil.
A tradition drink called Bhang is also prepared and enjoyed during Holi. Bhang is made from a cannabis paste…I’ll leave that thought there.
The next day, the Festival of Colours continues with the throwing of coloured powder or coloured water as people dash through the streets of the cities across India. This is a lively celebration of respect, love and devotion to the deities, friends and family.
Different areas of India celebrate in subtly different ways. There are so many diverse cultures across this vast country that many celebrate in their own unique way.
Jaipur, a popular destination for travellers, centres its festival around elephants and upbeat music.
Delhi adopts a more modern approach and hosts a vibrant festival of food and music, designed for family and friends to relax and have fun.
After the recent tragic events, carried out in the name of religion, that are dominating the world’s news, the idea of celebrating a triumph of good over evil around a bonfire, with a drink or two and in the company of family and friends sounds like a good idea to me.
credits to the owners of all photos – sourced form Google Images