This blogpost series is called Holidays and Holy Days to inform our OSU community about significant religious and spiritual observances.  If you know of a significant holiday or holy day coming up, please communicate the information to Hannah Pynn hannah.pynn@oregonstate.edu in the Dean of Student Life office.

March 27th, 2013 is the first day of Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors.

Context

Holi (pronounced HO-LEE) is the Hindu spring festival also called the “Festival of Colors” and is observed primarily in India and Nepal but is celebrated by Indians and Hindus worldwide. Holi is a time that celebrates the beginning of spring and commemorates the vibrant colors that come after winter. The highlight of Holi is when people throw colorful scented powder and perfumed water at each other. Depending on the geographical location, Holi is celebrated anywhere between 2-16 days.

Social boundaries of class, religion, gender, age, and caste are lowered during Holi and everyone enjoys an exciting and joyful atmosphere. The end of the festivities are marked by lighting bonfires to remember the mythological Hindu significance of the holiday. Although Holi has ties to Hindu mythology, it is generally regarded as the least religious festival and has developed as a seasonal holiday that prioritizes bridging social differences.

Happy Holi!

Significance

The celebration of Holi is recounted in Hindu sacred texts as a remembrance of several stories. The first is the miraculous story of Prahlada. Prahlada was the son of the king of the Demons, Hiranyakashipu, but Prahlada was a devoted follower of the Hindu god Lord Vishnu. Prahalada’s commitment to Vishnu angered Hiranyakashipu and he attempted to kill his son. In one attempt Prahlada was forced to sit in a fire with his sister Holika, but Holika burned to death and Prahlada survived and was unharmed.

The second story celebrated during Holi is the love play of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna. Radha’s mother suggested he smear any color he wanted on Krishna’s fair complexion to communicate his love for her in a playful manner. Today, young lovers communicate their affection to one another with the same lighthearted gesture during Holi.

The third mythological story of Holi is another deity love play of the Goddess Parvati who tries to win the heart of Lord Shiva. Parvati invoked the help of Kamadava, the Indian cupid-god, who shot a love-arrow on Shiva’s heart. Lord Shiva reacted to the love-arrow by opening his third eye in anger and incinerated Kamadeva. Upon realizing his mistake, Lord Shiva granted Kamadeva immortality for the sake of his sacrifice in dying for love. Today, Holi traditions acknowledge this story by offering sandalwood paste and mango blossoms to Kamadeva to soothe his burns.

Rituals/Traditions

  1. Throwing colored powder and water at everyone
  2. Water balloons or water guns full of scented or colored powder
  3. Music, singing, and dancing outside
  4. Sandalwood bonfires
  5. Perform traditional love plays
  6. Collecting firewood in weeks leading up to Holi
  7. Food offerings to the gods
  8. House cleaning for the coming spring

Additional Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/holi

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/india/holi

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/07/holi-2012-festival-of-colors-spring-songs-photos_n_1326812.html

 

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