The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March. Allegedly named after the mythical demoness Holika, it is a day when the feast of colours is celebrated. The festival is of a week. However it’s only the last day that is observed by all with colours. Phagu is another name for Holi where Phagu means the sacred red powder and Pune is the full moon day, on which the festival ends. People can be seen wandering through the streets either on foot or on some vehicle, with a variety of colours smeared over them.
Families and friends get together and celebrate the occasion with a lot of merry making. This spring time celebration is also an outburst of youthful exuberance in which throwing colours and water bolloons (lolas) on passer- by is acceptable. But, the Indian community, that is, the Marwari class who have settled down in Nepal for centuries and the people of Terai celebrate it a day later with more pomp and ceremony.
The days prior to the last don’t have a lot happening except, the installation of the ceremonial pole called “chir’, on the first day. It’s a bamboo pole, fringed with strips of cloth representing good luck charms. It is said to symbolize the tree on which lord Krishna hung the milkmaids’ garments while they were bathing, unseen as they thought, in the Jamuna river of northern India. As the pole is put up in the street at Basantapur, the festivities and worship commences for the week. At the end of which its taken to a bonfire.
The myth following Holi, reveals that a fiend named Holika together with her brother, an atheist king by the name of Hiranyakasyapu conspired ways to kill his son Pralhad because Pralhad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. But their attempts always failed for Lord Vishnu protects those who love him. Finally, Holika who having received a blessing from Lord Bramha to be immune to fire, jumped in with Pralhad. But Brahma’s blessing could only be used for good purposes and so Holika was consumed by the fire where as Pralhad was saved by the grace of the Gods. Thus, Holi is said to be celebrated to rejoice Holika’s extermination and the traditional bonfires are believed to commemorate her death.
According to another story, from the Puranas and the Bhagvat, Kansa sent a female demon named Putna to kill his nephew Lord Krishna. Taking the form of a nurse Putna went to Brindaban where the child Lord Krishna was growing up and tried to feed Him her poisonous milk but the attempt backfired and she was killed. Her body was burnt on the night of Holi. So some consider Holi, the festival of fire also.
Holi for everyone is a time for fun and frolic. A day when one forgets the worldly anxieties and just enjoys the finer things in life.
Written by Padmakshi Rana
Photographs collected from Min Bajracharya and Madhav Mangal.
to send greetings for Holi.