Holi is a religious festival celebrated by Hindus which falls during spring. The festival is observed in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. In the Indian state of West Bengal and Odisha, Holika Dahan is known as Dol-yatra or Doul Jatra or Basanta-Utsav (spring festival). The most popular Holi is that of the Braj, Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana region, which has an association to Lord Krishna. Here, the festival of Holi lasts up to sixteen days.
Significance of Holika Dahan:
The festival of Holi is a colourful event. There are various aspects of Holi. Though it might not be so apparent, a closer look and deep thought will reveal the significance of Holi in more ways. There is every reason including socio-cultural, religious and biological which explains why one must enjoy the festival. Enjoy the festival by participating with total enthusiasm in every ritual related to the festival.
Holi has various legends associated with it. Foremost is the legend of Prahlad and his demon father, Hiranyakshyap. The legend says, once lived a devil and powerful king, Hiranyakshyap who considered himself a God and wanted everybody to worship him. His son, Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had received a boon that she cannot be killed by fire. Legend has it that Prahlad was saved due to his extreme devotion to the Lord Vishnu. Holika was burnt to her death and paid the price for her sin. The tradition of 'Holika Dahan' comes from this legend.
Holi also celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which describes an incident where Lord Krishna used to play a prank by applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank of Krishna later became a trend and a part of the Holi festivities. Purana also states that Holi is the celebration of the death of Pootana who tried to kill an infant, Krishna. Another story of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India involves Lord Shiva and Kama deva. As per the legend, devotees in South India celebrate the devotion of Lord Kama deva who sacrificed his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation. Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi. She used to trouble small children. Later, she was chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. As per the belief, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan.
The spring season causes viral fever and cold. The playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance because these colours are prepared in the traditional manner from Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs. A special drink called thandai is prepared from almonds, pistachios, Cardamom and rose petals. Sometimes it also contains bhang or Cannabis Indica. Traditional flowers of Palash are boiled and soaked overnight in water to produced yellow coloured water. It also has medicinal properties.