Holi Festival

By Sarah Chumney

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(Holi Festival)

Holi is a festival of colors celebrating the legends surrounding various gods in the Hindu tradition and marking the beginning of spring. The festival is held toward the end of February or beginning of March, depending when there is a full moon. It is always held at a temple, generally at the Hindu Center of Virginia in Richmond. The Holi Festival is intended to help people to believe in being truthful and in eliminating away evil from their lives. The festival brings the Hindu community together for celebration but non-Hindus are welcome to participate in this festival as well.

This festival lasts two days, starting on the first night of the full moon. On the first day, the demoness Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s sister, is symbolically burned in large bonfires at night. The bonfires also symbolize both the end of winter and the death of evil. Legend has it that Hiranyakashipu wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship only him, but his son, Prahlad, resisted. Commanded by Hiranyakashipu, Holika entered a fire with Prahlad on her lap to be killed. Holika was able to enter fires herself without being burned. Prahlad was saved by his great religious devotion. In this way the festival represents a celebration of the victory of good over evil as well as of the victory of religious devotion. On the second day, which is the main day of Holi, colored powders and water are thrown into the air and on participants. Lord Krishna, one of the gods, is believed to have initiated this tradition by applying colors to his beloved Radha and other people who worshiped Lord Krishna. The people dance and sing Bollywood Holi.

Along with the playing of colors and celebrating, it is believed that there is a large health benefit to this festival. The powders that are used are part spices. Haldi, known as turmeric, is a yellow spice, which can protect from Alzheimer’s; Kumkum is dried tumeric mixed with slaked lime, which creates the red color; and Neem comes from a tree, which helps with antiseptic properties.

Sources:
Holi Festival website
Festival representative

Profile prepared by Sarah Chumney
April, 2008

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Updated: — 4:20 am

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