It won't won't be long before the brilliant colors of India are literally blowing in the wind. With a little help from celebrants of all ages, the country's Holi festivals bring joy and laughter while celebrating the end of winter and the coming of spring. Also called Dol Jatra Basantotsav and Phagwah, the Hindu festival of colors also honors love, the triumph of good over evil and the universal brotherhood of man.
Many stories claim to explain the origin of this colorful holiday. One such legend suggests that young Lord Krishna complained to his mother that he was jealous of the fair complexion of his soul mate, Radha. To indulge her son, the mother gave him permission to color Radha's face with any colors he liked. Tradition says that young lovers have been decorating each other with brilliant yellows, blues, magentas and of course, reds, the color of passion, love and matrimony in India, ever since.
No age group, gender or religious devotee is safe from mischievous children and teens hiding around corners with buckets of colored water called rang, water jets and packets of dry powdered colors known as gulal. Shrieks of laughter are only dwarfed by riotous singing as everyone joins the festivities in the village streets and main gathering places. It doesn't hurt that local brews are flowing freely.
Holi is celebrated in India on the first day after the full moon in March. It can have a different calendar date each year. In 2015, the festival will be on March 6. Northern India tends to celebrate the fun and mischief of the holiday, especially in the Golden Triangle Tourist Circuit of Dehi, Jaipur and Agra. Visitors come from all over the world to be pummeled with colored powder and soaked with buckets of dyed water. Southern India tends to honor the day in a more solemn and reverent manner.
The colors of Holi bear some symbolism: Red is the color of love, fertility, beauty and matrimony. Bright green is a reminder of new beginnings, of spring, of vitality and of the Muslim community living in India. Blue is Lord Krishna's color. It speaks of peace and tranquility. Saffron yellow has both religious and medicinal symbolism. Magentas, violets and almost every imaginable color will be tossed in the air or squirted in water guns during Holi. The goal is to color others and to be colored in turn until every participant is a messy, happy splatter of brilliant hues.
In the early days, to secure the colored powder, brilliant flowers of the "Flame of the Forest" were carefully picked and placed in the sun to dry. Then they were ground into a fine mix. When added to water, the result was a beautiful saffron-red product. It was perfect for Holi festivities. Today, many of the powdered colors are made synthetically, and a rainbow of color choices is available. Regardless the source, India revels in partying in the streets and coloring everyone within reach during the very special celebration of Holi.
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