What is the Significance of Holi?

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What is the Significance of Holi?

Learning about new cultures and traditions is an extremely rewarding experience. In some circumstances, people might find themselves exposed to cultural traditions that certainly seem interesting, but for which they have little context. For instance, many people have never heard of the traditional Hindu festival of Holi. It is a jubilant celebration full of colours, rituals, and traditions that hold specific religious and historical significance for Hindus. Learning about this celebration can help others understand and appreciate this meaningful cultural tradition.


Origins of Holi

Although the exact date of the first Holi celebration is unknown, a specific Hindu legend inspired the festival. In the legend, a king named Hiranyakashipu became so powerful that he believed all Hindus should worship him as their only God. In order to ensure his power, Hiranyakashipu's daughter Holika tricked her brother, the king's pious son Prahlada, into sitting on top of fire. Instead of burning Prahlada, however, the fire consumed Holika. Vishnu then killed Hiranyakashipu in retaliation, and good triumphed over evil. The name Holika is the origin for the name of the celebration.

Contemporary significance

Aside from celebrating the end of Hiranyakashipu's rule, the Holi festival also has contemporary significance. The event usually takes place in February or March and marks the beginning of a new spring. In that spirit, many celebrants use Holi as an opportunity to make fresh starts on things like ending feuds, offering forgiveness, and paying off debts.


Holi traditions

Although the festival originated in India, Hindus and even those of other religions now celebrate Holi around the world. Each region has its own specific way of recognising the important festival, but there are many similarities.

Holi bonfire

The traditional bonfire of Holi takes place on the night before the festival starts. The fire uses fuel that the community contributes over the course of the preceding weeks. The locals light the fire at sunset the night before Holi, with an effigy of Holika sitting on top of it. People gather around the fire to dance, sing, and celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Hindus call this ritual Holika Dahan.

Festival of colours

The day after the Holika Dahan is the actual celebration of Holi. During the day, the celebrants run through the streets, throwing brightly coloured powders and spraying liquid colour from water guns. This exuberant behaviour brings the entire community together, as no one is safe from the sprays of colours. The participants enjoy music and dancing throughout the day. This colourful tradition also has roots in another Hindu story featuring Krishna. Because Krishna's skin was blue, he looked much different than all the other people he knew. To make the object of his affection, a cowherd girl named Radha, look like him, he smeared her face with blue colouring, and a playful battle ensued.


Traditional Holi feasting

Special food and beverages are another important part of Holi celebrations. A drink called Thandai is one of the most popular beverages during the event. According to cooking magazine and online recipe provider Saveur, Thandai is "flavoured with nuts and mixed with spices such as cardamom, fennel, rose petals, and poppy seeds".

Other popular treats include savoury pastries such as kachoris filled with lentils and confections such as gujiyas, sweet pastries filled with shredded coconut, dates, sultanas, and nuts. The feasts for Holi generally take place the evening after the festival of colours once everyone has had a chance to clean up.


Holi celebrations around the world

The most boisterous of all the Holi celebrations are those that take place in Northern India, including Mathura and Vrindavan, both of which had significance in the life of Krishna. However, globalisation has helped spread Holi traditions around the world. Some of the more interesting international celebrations occur in places like Bangladesh, Nepal, South Africa, and the United States. Australia hosts Holi parties in many areas as well, including Melbourne and Sydney.


How to buy Holi items on eBay

Holi colours often come from natural sources such as turmeric, but buying coloured powders on eBay is a great way to enjoy a full spectrum of colours. Use the search box on any page of the site to look for "Holi powder" or "Holi colours", and then use the filters on the eBay page to narrow your results. It is often possible to find collections filled with numerous colours so you can fully express your joy at the celebration while still keeping your budget in check. 

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