On the second day, known as Dhulhendi, people spend the day throwing colored powder and water at each other. The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fever and cold. Thus, the playful throwing of the colored powders has a medicinal significance: the colors are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors. A special drink called thandai is prepared, sometimes containing bhang (Cannabis sativa).
Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colours.
Holi takes place over two days in the later part of February or March. As per the Hindu calendar, it falls on the Phalgun Purnima (or Pooranmashi, Full Moon), which will occur on March 22 in 2008. On the first day (22 March 2008 CE), symbolic burning of evil takes place, while the fun part of playing with colors takes place on the second day. (In 2007, Holi was celebrated on 3 March, the burning of Holika was on 4 March and the Dhuleti on 5 March.)
In Vaishnava Theology, Hiranyakashipu is the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra". Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.
Despite this, Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlad to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister, Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. Prahlad readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika, who then was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived unharmed, after the shawl moved to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
Later Lord Vishnu came in the form of a Narasimha (who is half-man and half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra).
In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna). Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark colour and his consort Radha's fair colour. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.
There is another story about the origin of Holi. Kamadeva is a god of love. Kama's body was destroyed when he shot his weapon at Shiva in order to disrupt his penance and help Parvati to marry Shiva. Shiva then opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kama's body was reduced to ashes. For the sake of Kama's wife Rati (passion), Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and mental state of love rather than physical lust. The Holi bonfire is believed to be celebrated in commemoration of this event.
Holi is a festival of radiance (Tej) in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colours that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.
Barsana: Barsana is the place to be at the time of Holi. Here the famous Lath mar Holi is played in the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple. Thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj Bhasha.
Holi played at Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called lathis to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields.
Kolkata: In Shantiniketan the abode of Tagore celebrates Dol in a unique way. It welcome the season 'Basanta' with music and dance and early morning 'Path'. Young girls wear yellow saris and perform dance in around the 'ashram' to the song of Tagore's 'Khol dar khol'.
Bengalis celebrate Holi as Dol Yatra or the swing festival where the icons of Krishna and Radha are placed on swings and women sing devotional songs, throw colors and 'abir' on them and perform dances as devotees take turns to swing them
Traditional delicacies are prepared in advance and served while playing Dol Purnima. People visit each others houses and savor the delicious dishes, be it the famous Rossogolla or the preparation of 'Malpoa' (a dessert made of flour, milk, sugar and dry fruits). The colour, noise and entertainment that accompanies the celebration of Dol Purnima bears witness to the feelings of oneness and a sense of brotherhood and goodwill. The spring air is still cool, the water cold, but revelers make a special punch of an intoxicant called bhang, which is mixed in milk, to add to the festivities.
Gujarat: Festival of colours, Holi is celebrated with great fanfare in the Gujarat state of India. Falling on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, Holi is a major Hindu festival and marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop. Bonfire is also lit in the main squares of the villages, localities and colonies. People collect at the time of bonfire and celebrate the event, which is symbolic of the victory of good over evil by singing and dancing. Tribals of Gujarat celebrate Holi in great enthusiasm and dance around the fire.
Maharashtra: In Maharashtra, Holi is mainly associated with the burning of Holika. Holi Paurnima is also celebrated as Shimga. A week before the festival, youngsters go around the locality, collecting firewood and money. On the day of Holi, the firewood is arranged in a huge pile at a clearing in the locality. In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household makes an offering of sweets and a complete meal to the fire god. Puran Poli is the main delicacy and children shout " Holi re Holi puranachi poli ". Shimga is associated with the elimination of all evil. Fun of playing with colors traditionally takes place on the day of Ranga Panchami unlike North India where it is done on the second day itself.
Manipur: Manipuris in northeastern part of India celebrate Holi for six days. Introduced in the eighteenth century with Vaishnavism, it soon merged with the centuries-old festival of Yaosang. Traditionally, youths at night perform a group folk dance called 'thaabal chongba' on the full moon night of Phalgun along with folk songs and rhythmic beats of the indigenous drum. However, this moonlight party now has modern bands and fluorescent lamps and a bonfire of a thatched hut of hay and twigs is arranged. Boys have to pay money to the girls for playing 'gulal' with them. In Krishna temples, devotees sing devotional songs, perform dances and play 'gulal' wearing traditional white and yellow turbans. On the last day of the festival, large processions are taken out to the main Krishna temple near Imphal where several cultural programs are organized.
North and West India : In North India, Haryana, Maharashtra and Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by making human pyramids while the girls try to stop them by throwing colored water on them to commemorate the pranks of Krishna and cowherd boys to steal butter and 'gopis' trying to stop them. At this time the men soaked with colors go out in large procession to mock alert people of the Krishna who might come to steal butter in their homes. The boy who finally manages to break the pot is crowned the Holi King of the Year for that community.
At some places, there is a custom in the undivided Hindu families that the women of the families beat their brother-in-law with her sari rolled up into a rope in a mock rage as they try to drench them with colors and in turn the brother-in-law bring sweetmeats for her in the evening.
South India: Holi down south is largely an outcome of the influence of media, movies, marketing and migration. But in Kochi(Cochin) the Gujarathi and other North Indian communities based in Mattancherry celebrate Holi with original fervor. In Mattancherry area of Kochi, there are 22 different communities living together in harmony. Moreover, the Gaud Sarawat Brahmins(GSB)who speak Konkani also celebrate Holi in Cherlai area of West Kochi. They locally call it as Ukkuli in Konkani or Manjal Kuli in Malayalam. It is held around the majestic Konkani temple called Gosripuram Thirumala temple. This year Ukkuli will be celebrated on March 23, 2008 in Cherlai. In Hyderabad, Holi is celebrated with great fervor, it is celebrated over 2 days.
Kashmir: Civilians as well as the Indian security force officers celebrate Holi in Kashmir. Holi, a high-spirited festival to mark the beginning of the harvesting of the summer crop, is marked by the throwing of colored water and powder and singing and dancing.
Holi Folk Song
This folk song is actually a 'bhajan' (devotional song) composed by Mira Bai, the famous devotee of Lord Krishna.
Syama Piya More Rangade Chunariya
Syama piya more rangade chunariya
Aisi rangade ke ranga nahi chhute Dhobiya dhoye chahe yeh sari umaria
Lal na rangaun main, hari na rangaun Apane hi ranga mein rangade chunariya
Bina rangaye main to ghar nahi jaungi Beet hi jaye chahe yeh sari umariya
Jal se patala kaun hai Kaun bhumi se bhari Kaun agana se tej hai Kaun kajala se kari
Jala se patala jnana hai Aur pap bhumi se bhari Krodha agana se teja hai Aur ik kalana kajala se kari
Mira ke prabhu giridhara nagara Prabhu charanana mein Hari charanana mein Syama charanana mein lagi najaria
Holi gifts and gift ideas
Gifts play an important role in Holi. Holi is a festival of fun, romance and brotherhood. A box of Sweets and Gujjias go in the mood with this fun festival and are one of the most popular gifts of Holi. White dress for Holi, especially the crisp cotton 'chikan' salwar-suit for girls and kurta-payjama for boys look beautiful, worn after the hours-long bath following the play of colors. The marked contrast of the still-stained faces and bodies and milky white fabric of the traditional Indian dresses look beautiful. Other gifts popular on Holi are the packets of color and bright-colored flowers.
You can give the personal touch and impress the receiver of your Holi presents by your thoughtfulness and personal attention by buying them anything that they have been craving for months. Businessmen handing out corporate gifts to their employees, clients and partners generally opt for executive diaries, calendars or household items such as bed sheets and kitchen gadgets. Kids love colored hats and latest sprinklers in the market. Other creative Holi gift ideas can be home decoration items and beautiful flower arrangements such as baskets and bouquets. Whatever you may give, it is actually the genuineness, the thought behind the gift and the smile that you have on your face while giving out the gift that really counts.
The pastes contain very toxic chemicals that can have severe health effects as follows:
The dry colours, commonly known as gulals, have two components – a colourant that is toxic and a base which could be either asbestos or silica, both of which cause health problems. Heavy metals contained in the colourants can cause asthma, skin diseases and temporary blindness.
These days, Holi colours are sold loosely, on the roads, by hawkers who often do not know the source. Sometimes, the colours come in boxes that specifically mention For industrial use only.
Following the publication of these studies several environmental groups took up the cause to encourage people to return to a more natural way of celebrating Holi. Amongst these, Navdanya, Delhi published a book called Abir Gulal, which spoke of the biodiversity that was the source of natural colours. Groups such as Development Alternatives, Delhi and Kalpavriksh, Pune have developed educational tools to teach children simple ways of making their own natural Holi colours. The CLEAN India campaign has been teaching children how to make beautiful natural colours. There are a few companies in India who have responded well to this and have developed "Herbal" Gulal. For instance, Lucknow based National Botanical Research Institute has started selling these bio-favourable gulals. But while a normal Gula packet costs around 10Rs, this one costs 30rs.
Groups such as Sadvichar Parivar are now advocating one symbolic community fire, rather than several smaller bonfires across the city as a way to reduce wood consumption. Others are also suggesting that these fires be lit using waste material rather than wood.