Now that the colorful dust and celebration has settled on one of my favorite holidays in India, Holi (or the festival of colors) I want to elaborate on the story behind it. This year I was thrilled to be able to enjoy all the festivities of Holi in India. Although Holi was observed on Monday, March 13th we got to enjoy a special Holi event that was organized by a friend whose daughter’s wedding we came to attend. We also took a tour of the famous city of Jodhpur in the princely state of Rajasthan where we enjoyed watching the locals gearing up for the holiday by buying packets of colors from vendors.
Like most Indian holidays there is story behind the name “Holi” in Indian mythology. The story centers on a demon king Hiranyakashyap who had conquered the kingdom of Earth. He had been blessed with a gift that made him virtually indestructible and he started to believe that he was God and everyone should worship him. However, to his disappointment his own son Prahlad refused to worship him and became the devotee of the Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap tried to kill his son Prahlad but of course Lord Vishnu saved him.
Hiranyakashyap had a sister, Holika, who
happened to have a gift that she could enter fire totally unscathed. The brutal father asked his sister to convince Prahlad to sit on her lap as she entered a blazing fire. As the legend depicts, Holika due to her brother’s brutal scheme paid the price of her life as it was reduced to ashes since her gift (boon) was effective only if she entered fire alone. Prahlad was completely unharmed as he chanted the name of Vishnu Narayan.
Holi’s name is derived from Holika and is celebrated as a festival of consistent good over evil. To celebrate this colorful festival, people gather on the eve of Holi and burn effigies of Holika in huge bonfires. They also dance around the fire celebrating the demise of Holika and the victory of Prahlad- A Lord Vishnu devotee.
The next morning is the actual Holi celebration and is called Rangwali Holi. “Rang” in Hindi means color. People commemorate Holi by singing Holi themed songs and dance along. A tradition for the holiday is to put dry color powder on faces of family and friends and use water guns and water balloons to spray one another with colored water. There are some special food preparations that are customary for Holi but there is one very customary drink that includes “Bhang” (Marijuana) and this tends to lead to intoxication. Most families avoid this practice by providing other “mocktails.” Holi coincides with the harvest season in India and thus the time to celebrate.
Our Chef Srini has shared a few recipes for you to enjoy the flavors of Holi in our recipes section. Our whole team at Monsoon Kitchens wishes you a very enjoyable Holi!