Holi is a major Hindu festival celebrated in India. It is also known as the festival of colors. Celebrated in the month of March, the festival welcomes spring and celebrates the production of the harvest. It is a festival of happiness and joy when people play with colors and repair broken relationships.
Short and Long Essay on Holi
Essay 1 – (250 Words)
India is a land of fascinating festivals involving grand celebrations. The people of India celebrate every festival with zeal and enthusiasm. Holi is one of such festivals, celebrated in the month of March. For those who follow the Hindu calendar, Holi falls in the month of ‘Phalgun’.
The festival is mainly celebrated over a period of two days. The festivities begin with a ritual called ‘Holika Dahan’ on the night of a full moon day in Phalgun month. A ceremonial pyre, consisting of wood, dried up plants, redundant household articles, etc, is burnt. It is symbolic of the burning of a Hindu mythological character ‘Holika’, who was a demoness. The ritualistic burning of Holika symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
While Holika Dahan is specifically carried out after sundown, the main Holi festival is celebrated during day time, the next day. Celebrations of this day are centered on fun and joy. It is a day for people to leave an ill will, bad intentions, old animosity, for or on whosoever, and revive the bonds afresh. So, to push their good intentions ahead, the people of India have invented colors. They have cleverly devised a way of diminishing differences by playing with colors.
People spray different powder colors, often mixed with water, on each other, shouting ‘Happy Holi’ on top of their voice. Some even say ‘Bura na mano holi hai’, meaning, ‘Don’t rebuke, it’s holi’.
The whole environment becomes so colorful and joyful that if you would be witnessing the celebrations, you would be fascinated by the sheer joy and the vibrancy it holds.
History of Holi – Essay 2 (400 Words)
The festival of ‘Holi’ brings immense happiness and joy to millions of people in the Indian subcontinent. The festival has been celebrated for thousands of years; though, the forms and the rituals might have changed, the significances have largely remained the same.
I will not describe how holi is celebrated as we have already done that in another essay on this page. In this essay, we will go through the historical facts of Holi.
Holi in Ancient Text and Scriptures
Many ancient Hindu texts and scriptures have references to Holi. Ancient Hindu philosophical text ‘Mimamsa Sutra’; written by Rishi Jamini around 300 to 200 BCE also mentions a festival similar to holi.
The festival is depicted in the stone carvings of several ancient temples and structures. An ancient stone inscription referring to the Holi festival was found in the Ramgarh village, in the western state of Rajasthan.
An Iranian scholar named Abu Rayhan Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Al-Biruni, also called Al-Biruni in English, has also mentioned the ancient Holi festival of the Indian subcontinent, in his work ‘Tarikh al-Hind’ or the ‘History of India’. Al-Biruni spent a good time in the Indian subcontinent, studying and documenting Hindu faith and cultural practices.
Stone Carvings at Hampi
Other, quite obvious proof of holi being an ancient festival is found in the stone carvings at Hampi, a 14th century, an archeological site located in east-central Karnataka.
The site has an early 15th-century temple dedicated to Lord Rama, called the Hazara Rama temple or the Ramachandra temple. On the outer walls of the temple, a pictorial description of both the Dussehra and the Holi festival could be found.
Similarly, the Mahanavami platform located in a 19-acre enclosure at Hampi has several granite carvings, describing the 14th-century activities of the royal family. In one of these carving, there is a depiction of common people throwing water on each other. There could be no more clear evidence to the fact that the festival of Holi has been a part of Indian culture since the 14th century, at least.
Considering the fact that Holi is celebrated around the arrival of spring; welcoming warmer and sunny days. It is very much credible that initially it might have been celebrated with water only and the powder colors that we see today were only added sometime later in the early 20th century.
Significance of Holi – Essay 3 (600 Words)
Every Hindu festival celebrated in India has its roots in the ancient Hindu religion and mythology. The festivals also signify basic life principles or moral ethics, of the Hindu religion. These beliefs and ethos form the basic character of the Hindu religion, which is from time to time, revived through festivals and rituals.
Holi is one such, vibrant Hindu festival, which has cultural, spiritual, moral and social significance.
Holi is not only a festival to play with colors and be jubilant, but it also reflects as well as revives the cultural ethos of a particular place, people or region. For example, the people of Assam celebrate Holi as Phakuwa or Doul. Special holi rituals are held at Barpeta, which is a district in western Assam. The Holi celebration at Barpeta is called ‘Doulutsava’ or ‘Doul Jatra’. It is carried out in the traditional “Sattriya Parampara”, which includes worship of Lord Krishna. It is worth mentioning here that ‘Sattriya’ is a dance form that originated in the eastern parts of Assam and has evolved from Vaishnavism, which is primarily based on the worship of Lord Krishna.
Similarly, every state, cultural group in India, celebrates Holi in its own way, as a reflection of its own culture and traditions.
The very first ritual of ‘Holika Dahan’ which declares the commencement of Holi festivities, signifies spiritual strength and the fact that ‘truth and faith always emerge victorious’. However, to understand it, we need to go through a small but meaningful mythological story.
The story relates to a demon king named Hirankashyap, his sister who was a demoness herself, named Holika and his son Prahlad. Although Hirankashyap was a powerful demon king, it seems that his son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This irked the demon king to such an extent that he conceived thousands of plans to make his son agree upon disdaining Vishnu.
But Prahlad was hell bend on worshipping Vishnu and believed that Vishnu is the only superpower that exists. This infuriated Hirankashyap and he planned to deviously get Prahlad assassinated with the help of his sister Holika. Holika had a boon that she can’t be burned down by the fire. Clever enough, Holika coaxed Prahlad to sit with her on a burning fire, thinking that she would be saved because of the boon and Prahlad will be burnt to ashes. Though, what happened was both unexpected and surprising. Holika, the evil demoness was burned down to ashes while Prahlad was saved by the grace of Vishnu. In her ego, Holika had forgotten that the boon only works when she enters the fire alone.
Therefore, Holi signifies that true devotion to God bestows one with power and courage and also no evil in the entire world could ever harm such a person.
Though, the festivities of Holi span over two days, the actual celebration and the fervor stay longer, for weeks or sometimes even months. In a broader context, the festival of Holi is more a social event than anything religious.
The main essence, as well as the message of the festival, is to go out and meet the people, diminish animosity and enjoy happiness as the bonds get revived. Isn’t that’s exactly what we love to do on Holi? Dressed in their finest clothes, people start visiting their friends, relatives, and neighbors, beginning from the evening of Holi. Sweets are offered, pleasantries exchanged and this way social bonds, those have been lying cold throughout the year, get revived. This method of socialization is almost ritualistically followed for weeks after Holi.
The festival of Holi is an inseparable part of Hindu culture and mythology. Apart from being a major festival it also impacts the social fabric of the community and strengthens bonds by promoting love and brotherhood.