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Holi 2019: Know The Mythological, Scientific & Socio-Cultural Significance Of Festival Of Colours


22 March 2019

Sangita Agarwal


Bhubaneswar: Holi, the festival of colours is here. Despite it being a Hindu festival people of all religions and cultures take part and it's now seen as a universal celebration.Peace and love are the best reasons to celebrate, and thanks to the Holi Festival of Colours, we can all do it in the bright hues of a rainbow.

The date varies but is always marked on the full moon, starting with a Holika bonfire with singing and dancing. The next day, the streets explode with colour as people turn out armed with water balloons, water guns and dry coloured powder. The festival marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring by highlighting positives, play, laughter and forgiveness.

Though they might not be so apparent but a closer look and a little thought will reveal the significance of Holi in more ways than meets the eyes. Ranging from socio-cultural, religious to scientific there is every reason why we must heartily enjoy the festival and cherish the reasons for its celebrations.

Mythological Significance

  • The word Holi is derived from the word ‘Holika’, who was the sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap. The legend says that the king considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahlad worshipped Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad on her lap, as she had a boon to enter fire unscathed. But, Prahlad was unharmed and Holika got burnt to death with the help of Lord Vishnu. The tradition of burning Holika or the 'Holika dahan' comes mainly from this legend.
  • There is an alternative version of history associated with Holi. It is said Lord Krishna as a baby was poisoned by the breast milk of Putana and developed the characteristic blue colour of his skin. Krishna was skeptical whether the fair-skinned Radha and other girls would like him. When he told his mother, Yashoda, she told him to colour Radha’s face in whatever colour he liked. Since then, Holi is commemorated as the festival of love.
  • In southern India, another legend is extremely popular and is related to Lord Shiva and Kamadeva. Lord of love and passion, Kamadeva sacrificed his life to revoke Lord Shiva from medidation. People in south celebrate the supreme sacrifice of Kamdeva for humanity.

Scientific Significance

Our forefathers initiated this festival at a time when it is scientifically very significant. Holi comes at a time of the year when people have a tendency to feel sleepy and lazy. This is natural for the body to experiences some tardiness due to the change from the cold to the heat in the atmosphere. To counteract this tardiness of the body, people sing loudly or even speak loudly. Their movements are brisk and their music is loud. All of this helps to rejuvenate the system of the human body.

  • The tradition of Holika Dahan pertains to purification of atmosphere at a time when there is a growth of bacteria in it due to the mutation period of winter and spring. When Holika is burnt, the temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. When people conduct Parikrama (circumambulation) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body, thereby cleansing it. Moreover, the cowdung cakes used in the dahan purifies the atmosphere from bacteria.
  • In south India, the day after the burning of Holika, people put ash (Vibhuti) on their forehead. They mix it with chandan (sandalpaste) with the young leaves and flowers of the Mango tree and consume it to promote good health.
  • Some also believe that play with colours help to promote good health as colours are said to have great impact on our body and our health. Western-Physicians and doctors believe that for a healthy body, colours too have an important place besides the other vital elements. Deficiency of a particular colour in our body causes ailment, which can be cured only after supplementing the body with that particular colour.
  • During Holi, people clean up their houses which get rid of the mosquitoes and pests. It generates positive energy and happiness.

Socio-Cultural Significance

  • Holi marks the passing of winter and beginning of spring and is celebrated each year around the vernal equinox, the first day of the new season on the astronomical calendar. Generally, it falls between February and March.
  • The mythological legends help the people to follow a good conduct in their lives and believe in the virtue of being truthful and helpful. This is extremely important in the modern day society.
  • Also, the tradition of the Holi is that even the enemies turn friends on Holi and forget any feeling of enmity that may be present. The celebration transgresses religion, caste, creed people forget any kind of differences thus enriching the spirit of honhomie and brotherhood through this festival.
  • This festival also splashes colours in strained relationships, and strengthens emotional bonds between people, thus revitalizing and bringing the society together, thereby re-inforcing the secular fabric of our country.

The Festival of Colours thus signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. So, get knee-deep in colours and splash good vibes all around this Holi.

Also Read: Watch: Tourists Celebrate Holi In Odisha's Konark In High Spirits