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The Holi Festival

The Holi Festival

If you have Hindu friends or family, they will be in the midst of enjoying the Holi Festival. Holi marks the arrival of spring, the triumph of good over evil and includes festivities celebrating the colours of joy, love, prosperity, good health and happiness.

On the first day, a bonfire is lit to pray for the longevity and prosperity of loved ones. The fire also symbolises the victory of good over evil: in Hindu legend, Hiranyakashyap, a demon king, wanted to be immortal. While he wanted everybody to treat him above all the gods, his son Prahlada was a devotee of Vishnu (the preserver and protector of the universe). Strongly disapproving of his son’s refusal to acknowledge him as a god, Hiranyakashyap asked his sister Holika to enter a furnace with her nephew on her lap. She had been given a magical power by the gods, making her immune to fire. However, crossing the gods is never a good idea. Vishnu protected his follower Prahlada from the fire, while Prahlada's evil aunt burned to ashes; since she was using her gift to do something evil, her power had vanished.

Holi is better known around the world for its second day of festivities when revellers throw coloured powder on each other. The powder (gulal) is linked to the legend of Lord Krishna (Vishnu’s reincarnation), whose skin was blue. Worried he wouldn't be accepted by his love Radha, he mischievously coloured her face to make her more like himself. In times gone by, the gulal was made of turmeric and flower extracts, but today synthetic substitutes are largely used. Red reflects love and fertility, blue is the colour of Krishna, yellow is the colour of turmeric and green symbolises spring and new beginnings.

Everyone participating in Holi, regardless of age, gender, social status or caste, is fair game to be covered in the perfumed powder as a celebration of Krishna and Radha's love. It is a day filled with singing, dancing, fun and good humour. As much as anything, the Festival provides a chance to spend time together with family members and loved ones and indulge in delicious sweet treats.

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