Colors bring joy and refreshment to our lives. In the otherwise mundane life spent balancing career and home, colors provide a pleasant stimulus, much like the spiritual awakening does to the soul.
Colors have a special significance in the Hindu religion. Some are regarded as the favorite colors of deities, some auspicious, and some not so. One of many festivals that take place in a year in the Hindu religion salutes the importance of colors is Holi.
History of Holi
While Holi marks the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere, it also holds religious reverence in this part of the world, it is also known as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”. Holi signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter.
Holi is deeply regarded as the festival that meet and greets others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. It is also considered a thanksgiving for a good harvest.
The Holi festival typically lasts for a night and a day, starting on the evening of the Purnima (Full Moon day) falling in the Vikram Samvat Hindu Calendar  month of Phalgun, which falls somewhere between the end of February and the middle of March in the Gregorian calendar. The first evening is known as Holika Dahan (burning of demon Holika and the following day as Holi.
Hiranyakashyapu, Prahalad, and Holika
According to Legends, there once lived an Asura king named Hiranyakashipu in ancient times. In an attempt to avenge the death of his younger brother, who had been killed by Lord Vishnu, he started meditating to appease Lord Shiva. The tyrant king wanted to become the king of heaven, earth, and the underworld.
Hiranyakashipu performed severe penance and prayer for many years to gain enough power. Finally, he was granted a boon. Powered by the boon, Hiranyakshipu thought he had become invincible. Arrogant, he ordered all in his kingdom to worship him, instead of God.
Hiranyakashipu, however, had a very young son, named Prahalad. As fate would have it, he was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. Despite his father’s order, Prahalad continued to pray to Vishnu. So the Asura king wanted to kill his son. He asked the favor of his sister Holika who, because of a boon, was immune to fire. They planned to burn Prahalad to death.
A pyre was lit up for Holika to sit on and it was planned for Prahalad to sit on her. Yet, in the end, Prahalad emerged unscathed by the fire, And Holika, the demon, was burned to ashes. The earnest devotion and complete submission to Lord Vishnu saved young Prahlad. Thus was the triumph of Prahlad, the representative of good spirits. And the defeat of Holika, the representative of evil.
Krishna and Holi
Holi is celebrated as a commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. It is said that a baby, Krishna developed his characteristic dark skin colour because the she-demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk.
In his youth, Krishna despaired whether the fair-skinned Radha and other girls would like him because of his skin colour. His mother, tired of the desperation, asks him to approach Radha and ask her to colour his face in any color she wanted. Ever since the playful coloring of Radha and Krishna’s face has been commemorated as Holi.
Shiva and Holi
Legend has it that Holi is linked to Shiva in yoga and deep meditation. Parvati wanted to bring back Shiva into the world, so she sought help from the Hindu god of love called Kama Deva on Vasanta Panchami. The love god shot arrows at Shiva, the yogi opens his third eye and burnt the Kama to ashes. Kama’s wife Rati (Kamadevi) and his own wife Parvati were livid.
Rati performed her own meditative asceticism for forty days to bring her husband back, upon which Shiva understands, forgives out of compassion, and restores the god of love. This return of the god of love is celebrated on the 40th day after the Vasanta Panchami festival as Holi.
Significances of Color in Hinduism
In Hinduism red is an auspicious color. Since clay earth is red and produces many harvests, the color red is also representative of fertility. As a bold color, red symbolizes bold emotions and characteristics, such as passion, sensuality, power, and strength. The deities who wear red, such as the goddess Durga, possess the respectable qualities that the color represents.
White, which is composed of many colors, symbolizes a range of notions in the Hindu religion. It is worn by deities who are equated with peacefulness, innocence, and purity, such as the goddess Saraswati. The cleanliness of the color white symbolizes new beginnings and rebirth. Alternatively, white is also symbolic of death in Hinduism.
Green items, such as leaves, are used in many Hindu prayer rituals because the color is representative of the natural world, it also represents fertility, life, and rebirth that are found in nature. Ultimately, green is considered a color that symbolizes the same tranquility and calmness evident in the deities and the natural world.
Saffron is also symbolic of the cleansing and purity that comes from burning objects.
Hindu gods, such as Vishnu, Krishna, and Shiva, are depicted as having blue skin, it also represents the characteristics that many of the deities possess, such as bravery, goodness, determination, and protectiveness.
Like the color of the sun, yellow also represents the characteristics of the sun, such as light, warmth, and happiness. Furthermore, due to the abundant presence of the sun during spring, yellow symbolizes new beginnings and developments.
Also, Holi is not a one-day festival as celebrated in some places in India, but it is celebrated for three days.
- Day 1 – On full moon day (Holi Purnima) colored powder and water are arranged in small brass pots on a thali. The celebration begins with the eldest male member who sprinkles color 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 bonfire in a clockwise direction to seek the blessing of the God of fire. People gather near fires, sing, and dance. Day 3- This day is known as ‘Parva’ and this is the last and final day of Holi celebrations. On this day colored powder and water is poured on each other. The deities of Radha and Krishna are worshipped and smeared with colors.
It is the festive day to end and rid oneself of past errors, to end conflicts by meeting others, a day to forget and forgive. People pay or forgive debts, as well as deal anew with those in their lives. Holi also marks the start of spring, for many the start of the New Year, an occasion for people to enjoy the changing seasons and make new friends.
Biologists believe the liquid dye or Abeer penetrates the body and enters into the pores. It has the effect of strengthening the ions in the body and adds health and beauty to it. There is yet another scientific reason for celebrating the Holi, this, however, pertains to the tradition of Holika Dahan. The mutation period of winter and spring induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body.
When Holika is burnt, the temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Following the tradition when people perform Parikrama (circumambulation or going around) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.
Ingredients Used in Herbal Organic Colours
The colors available in the market contain harmful chemicals that end up doing more harm than good. The organic herbal colours are usually made from organic turmeric, beetroot, kumkum, indigo leaves, white maida, rose petals, marigold flowers, gram flour, tulsi leaves, Mehendi leaves, sandalwood powders, and varieties of organic stuff and flowers.
How to Make Your Own Natural Colours for Holi this year
Yellow: Mix organic haldi(turmeric) and besan powder to make yellow color Or else, grind dried marigold flowers or yellow chrysanthemums to get another shade of yellow.
Green: Take some fresh Mehendi leaves, dry them and grind them to get green-coloured powder. You can obtain different shades of green by mixing henna powder with flour or besan.
Blue: If you are lucky to find the blue Hibiscus flowers, dry and grind them to get a nice blue colour.
Red: Use organic sindoor as the red colour. Or else get dried rose petals or red hibiscus flowers, grind them, and get nice shades of red.
Use organic colours or home-made natural colours this holi. Make it more fun, more enjoyable, and eco-friendly.
(Last Updated On: March 15, 2022)