Saturday, March 19, 2011

Holi Festival rituals, traditions, puja, food

The main legend of the festival of Holi, and the reason why it acquired the name, centers on the story of King Hiranyakashyap. The proud King insisted that all his people worship nobody but him. However, his own son Prahlad worshipped Lord Vishnu. In anger, the King told his sister Holika to step into a fire with his son. Holika had received a special boon which ensured that she would never be harmed by flames. She took Prahlad up on to a tower of wooden logs, telling him that by climbing to the top he would be able to come in close contact with all the heavenly Gods. Prahlad readily went with her.

However, Holika was unaware that the boon was effective only on condition that she enter a fire alone. Not being aware of this, Holika stepped into the flames with Prahlad and was herself destroyed. Prahlad was not harmed in any way, thanks to his loyal devotion to Lord Vishnu. 

Holika with Prahlad at the top of the tower of wooden logs, built like a funeral pyre

Holika getting burnt by the flames, while Prahlad is not harmed as he prays to Lord Vishnu
 {above photos I took from the images in Amar Chitra Katha's 'Prahlad' storybook}

Chhota Holi traditions
In keeping with the above-mentioned legend, a traditional fire is burnt on the night of the Holi festival to indicate a destruction of all evil by all that is good. This ritual is known as Holika Dahan and involves burning an effigy of Holika. The day is also popularly called Chhota Holi (small Holi). Sometimes an official priest presides over the traditional fire, chanting the specific Rig Veda mantras. A coconut is thrown into the fire as an offering. Some people also smear the ashes left from the fire the next day, as a kind of purification of the body since the ashes are considered to be holy.

A stack of dry hay and twigs built in preparation for the traditional Holi bonfire (though could not understand the reason for decorating it with roses!)

Closeup of the coconuts at the very top


Radha-Krishna Holi: Festival of Colours
The main festival of Holi is an evening festival and involves the rituals mentioned above. It is the next day that Dhulibandhan, the throwing of colours, is celebrated. This playing with colours is also rooted in the Hindu legend of Lord Krishna playing with colours, playfully throwing colour on his friends and his sweetheart Radha & her friends (gopis). 

Enjoy a safe Holi by using natural organic colours:

There are many traditional Holi bhajans, such as:
नंदी  केसे  खेले  अनोखी  होली  शाम  के
या  हरी  में  खो  गयी  रे  मेरे  पायल  पाव  के
अवही  ने i गडाही मेने  बहुतक  दाम  के 

नंदी  केसे  खेले  अनोखी  होली  शाम  के
धुम सही  न  जाये  सखी  रे  आदो  शाम  के
हरमत  लाग  जाये  इससे  होली  क्या  काम  के

नंदी  केसे  खेले  अनोखी  होली  शाम  के
रसे  बहुत  है  बुरी  सखी  रे , गोकुल  गावो  के
राग  डाले  चाप  लगाये, अपने  नाम  के

नंदी  केसे  खेले  अनोखी  होली  शाम  के
यह  हरी  है  अजर  अमर , गोवार्दन  धाम  के
मित्रे  मंडले खुश  रही , सब  हर  नए  साल  के

नंदी  केसे  खेले  अनोखी  होली  शाम  के

The day of throwing colours and water balloons also has an unusual aspect to it. Known as शिमगा in Marathi, on this day you can curse anybody! Whatever cuss words are said are said in a spirit of fun and no genuine hurt is meant. Hence the Hindi words “Bura na mano, Holi hai!” (don’t feel bad, it is Holi!) are often said after throwing colour or a water balloon!

Holi Festival Cuisine 
Stacks of Puranpolis for sale in a shop
Every festival has a special sweetmeat or sweet dish. Thus we have tilgul for maker sankranti, modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi, karanjis for Diwali, etc. So also, the unique sweet item for the festival of Holi is puranpoli. In southern States, this is known as Holige or Obbattu.
The stuffing is known as puran and the outer cover is known as poli. Ingredients for puran poli are: (i) channa dal (yellow gram); (ii) jaggery; (iii) cardamom powder; (iv) plain flour; (v) ghee; (vi) warm water.

In South India, there are 2 versions of the stuffing. In one, known as Kaayi Holige, grated coconut is used as a stuffing with the jaggery. In another version, known as Hoorna Holige the coconut is substituted with boiled chickpeas lentil. 

Puran poli is generally served with a big dollop of homemade ghee on it. 

Holi Festival Drinks
Bhang: this is a drink unique to the festival of Holi. Made from a mixture of milk and the leaves & flowers of the cannabis plant, it is generally flavoured slightly with cardamom, nutmeg and cloves and a bit of rosewater. Many people, though, drink the brew as it is, without any flavoured add-ons. It gives a crazy high and people who drink excess bhang totally go down under. In northern States, the bhang is mixed with a variety of ingredients, such as watermelon seeds, almonds, sugar, saunf, etc. and the drink is known as Thandai

Please do not drink bhang / thandai in excess and please do not drink and drive

Holi pichkaris


Holi SMS greetings in Hindi


Holi SMS greetings in English

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