The Indian spring festival Holi is the most colorgul of all the festivals. According to the gregorian calendar Holi is observed on the last full moon of the month of Phalgun. Holi is also known as 'Basanta Utsab' and 'Kama Mahotsava' or somewhere it is known as 'Dolyatra', 'Dhulheti', 'Dhulandi' or 'Dhulendi'. It is also time for spring harvest.
On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Holika dahan is also known as the burning of the demon Holika. People collect logs of wood and other waste items, make a pile and burn it in an open space. This ritual symbolizes the victory of evil over good. It is also even termed as the cleansing ceremony before the actual Holi festival.
Holi is the festival of colors. People come out wearing pure white clothes and gather together in a common place where they play holi with gay abandon and playfully throw colors on each other. Smear their loved ones with colors called 'gulaal'. Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons and passers by. Women and senior citizen form groups called tolis and move in colonies applying colours and exchanging greetings. Songs, dance on the rhythm of dholak and mouthwatering Holi delicacies like mithai and thandai which means sweet are the other highlights of the day. Bhang,an intoxicating drink, is the special attraction of this festival. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display. Getting intoxicated on bhaang and dunking friends in mud pool amidst teasing and laughter is a part of fun of holi and is alowed only on this day.
It is believed that on this day Lord Shiva opened his third eye and incinerated Kamadeva, the god of love, to death. So, many people worship Kamadeva on the day of Holi, with the simple offering of a mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste.
Holi is also celebrated to remeber the love of Lord Krishna and Radha. Krishna during his childhood asked his mother why Radha was so fair and he was so dark. His mother told him to smear Radha's face with gulaal and see how the color changed. In the legends of Krishna as a youth he is depicted playing all sorts of pranks with the gopis or cowgirls. One prank was to throw colored powder all over them. So at Holi, images of Krishna and his consort Radha are often carried through the streets. Holi is celebrated with eclat in the villages around Mathura, the birth-place of Krishna.
The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fever and cold. Thus, the playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance the colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors.
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