It is said that the festival of Holi symbolizes mans fascination for color. The concept of color psychology attempts to interpret and understand human nature based on a person’s choice of color. On a day like holi day, choosing a specific color and deciding to have only that applied can prove difficult. So just give in and enjoy all the colors that this festival puts in your lap.
Holi just like the other festivals in Hindu religion and other religions has spiritual meanings associated with it. It is much more than the color and play that it is usually associated with. In this article let us look at the spiritual significance of the festivals and the legends associated with it.
Holi day is just like the other festivals in Hindu religion and other religions has spiritual meanings associated with it. It is much more than the color and play that it is usually associated with.
- Sacrifice: For some the festival of color represents sacrifice. It is an opportunity for burning away your vices and impurities. Lust (kaam), anger (krodh), greed (lobh), attachment (moh) and arrogance (ahankaar) are submitted to the fire and five virtues of truthfulness, purity, love, bliss and benevolence adopted.
- Wean off the unnecessary: As we read in part I of the series, the festival is an opportunity to clean the homes and properties. Organic waste, wooden logs that lie waste after the winter are burnt while fresh harvests are offered to the Gods. This represents weaning away of unnecessary. It reminds people of staying away from the sensual pleasures and pursuing the spiritual journey.
- Ego leveler: In addition to spiritual significance, festival of Holi is considered to be a great leveler in society. People embrace and unite as equal. Behind happy colored faces man made differences get lost. The festival encourages people to bury the past and look forward to the new year and what the future promises.
There are many legends that are associated with the festival. Let us look at them in order to understand the significance of the festival better.
Prahlaad and Holika
One of the most famous stories associated with Holi is that of Prahlaad and Holika. The story as
told in the puranas represents victory of good over evil. Prahlaad was a young devotee of Lord Vishnu whose father was a powerful king. The powerful king ordered everyone in his kingdom to worship him. Prahlaad refused to do so for he was devoted to Lord Vishnu. The king decided to kill his own son. He ordered his sister Holika to sit in the middle of a bonfire that was intended to burn Prahlaad. Holika enjoyed a special boon in the form of a shawl that protected her from fire. When Holika sat in the fire with Prahlaad, a strong wind came and blew the shawl away and as a result Holika got burnt and Prahlaad was safe.
Holika represents a vice ridden person, a person who was pure on the outside and evil inside. Prahlaad on the other side represented simple innocent devotion to the almighty. People burn Holika and pray for virtues of Prahlaad to be vested in them.
Holi is also known as Dol Yatra. The word ‘Dol’ means a swing and yatra means a journey. Krishan Leela is enacted in temples and in houses. Sri Krishna’s idol is placed in the swing that is beautifully decorated with flowers, paintings and ‘gulal’. The scenes of young Krishna making merry with the ‘gopis’ are enacted and devotional songs of their relationship sung.
The story of how Holi began to be associated with Radha and Krishna goes as follows –
Krishna who was dark in complexion asked his mother that why was it that Radha had a fair complexion. His mother suggested to Krishna to color her cheeks so that she starts to look like him. When Krishna did so, Radha responded in a playful manner. Soon other gopis too joined in and this resulted in a colorful chaos and every Holi attempts are made to recreate the chaos.
In southern parts of the country the festival is known by the name of Kamadahana. This story recognizes the sacrifice that ‘Kamdevta’ made for the devtas and the humans. The story goes as
At a time when Lord Shiva was in meditation the devtas got into trouble with the asuras. There
was no one except Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s son who could salvage the devtas. Kam devta (God of Lust) was requested to break Lord Shiva’s meditation and inducing lust in him for Goddess Parvati. Kam devta did as he was told but knew that his actions would spell trouble for him. When Kam devta shot his arrow of lust towards Lord Shiva, he opened his third eye and as a result Kam devta was reduced to ashes. The burning of Kam devta by the Lord is termed as Kamdahana. It was the Lord’s bliss that won over lust that day.
In addition to the above legends the festival marks arrival of the spring season. Spring is the most beautiful season, the climate unfolds, new leaves appear on the trees and flowers bloom all around.