Paragraph on Holi Festival (1404 Words)

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Commonly called ‘Holi’ is a spring festival dedicated to Krishna and the gopis. It took the place of an earlier kind of Saturnalia, ‘the survival of a primitive fertility ritual, combining erotic games,’ “comic operas” and folk-dancing.


Some of the earlier elements remain, such as the singing of suggestive songs, the throw­ing of coloured, water and jumping over bonfires, the ashes of which were believed to possess magical power.

Holi is primarily a fertility festival which heralds the spring and falls in the month of Phalgun (February-March). This is the Saturnalia of the Hindus and very popular holiday among the lower classes. Men, women, aged and children are all participate with great enthusiasm in this festival of Holi.

Some notable features of Holi festival include sprinkling of coloured water and powder on one another, singing of lewd songs, rowdy crowds and a general atmosphere of licence. In Northern parts, processions of drunkards singing obscene songs and dancing are seen parading the streets.

Though most of the women take care to keep indoors, but they also sprinkle coloured waters on one another or on their brothers and near male relatives. Not only coloured water and powder are thrown on one another, but people exchanges greetings even with the strangers. Sweets are offered to the relatives, friends and neighbours.


There are various stories which explain its genesis. It is believed that Kama was burnt to death by Shiva on this day. In southern parts of India, the songs are sung on the occasion of the festival include lamentations of Rati on the death of her husband.

Holika denotes half-ripe corn, and the festivity might have originated as celebration of the fields in springtime. Indeed the month of Phalguni in which it falls is dedicated to the vernal season. The name Phalguna itself means, quality or fruit of fruit maker. Cultural historians have other interpretations.

Some of them believe that the festival was imported to India from Egypt and Greece, and that it probably began to take on certain aspects when conflicts arose between alien men and indigenous women. The etymology of the word is sometimes quoted to support this view: the name is related to the Sanskrit sol: sour. Solika means coldness.

Gupte in his ‘Hindu holidays and ceremonies’ has tried to show that the Holika festival was imported from Egypt or Greece. But Mahamahopadhyaya P.V. Kane argues against this theory, as Holika is mentioned by Jaimini and the Katha Kagrhya, it follows that it prevailed at least some centuries before Christ. The Kamasutra and Bhavisyottara link it with spring and it was performed at the end of the year (on purnimanta reckoning).

Holika is infact the initiative rite for Holi. Group lightening during night and firing of aim level collected grass/wood are some notable features of this auspicious day. This is celebrated everywhere in northern Indian to get relief from fire and receiving energy. This occurs in the month of Phalguna (February-March).

There is a legend that a terrible female demon, named Holaka, was accus­tomed to make her daily meal of children. The people appealed to a certain demon- king, who directed that the fury was to limit her appetite and only devour one child a day, also that the people might draw lots as to which it should be.

One day the only grandson of a lonely old woman was selected in this manner for sacrifice on the following morning, bemoaning his fate she was wandering about, when she encountered a sadhu, who declared that if Holaka were met with sufficiently strong abuse and foul language she would be subjugated.

The old woman spread the news abroad and early next morning collected all the children, who had been instructed what to say, and, when Holaka appeared, they all greeted her with such a torrent of abuse and obscene expressions that she fell dead on the spot and the children made a huge bonfire of her remains.

The most interesting Holi celebration is the ‘Lathmar Holi’ at Barsana near Mathura, the legendary home town of Radha, consort of Lord Krishna. The women of Barsana challenge men of Nandgaon, home of Krishna, to throw colour on them.

The men reply the next day. It is in the form of moral and physical challenge played by women and men whose Goddess Radha and God Krishna were lovers of great merit. The style speaks of a raw strength of the people.

In between Govardhana to Jatipura, on the way at Gantoli, towards the final stretch of road to Jatipura, traditionally called Gopalpura (the abode of Lord Krishna) is a small village. Here lies the Gulal Kund, the lake of pink powder, passes on the right, sacred, for it was here that Krishna played the sacred spring sports of Holi with His associates. The village has, thus, an unprecedented history of Krishna devotion and devotees.

In Bhattaji’s temple at Vrindavan, where Radha Vallabha’s image is in­stalled is not generally open to public. On special festivals, the public come for worship. One such occasion is the forty day period between the spring festival, Basant Panchami, usually in January and Holi, the festival of squirting coloured water and throwing coloured powders, which ends the old year and initiates the hot season.

A daily samaj is sung during the entire period in the courtyard of Bhattaji’s temple, while the priest creates beautiful designs with coloured powders on a white cloth back drop within the sanctum sanctorum, re-enacting the playful sports of Holi. Led by Sri Krishna Caitanya Bhattaji, the head of the family, on the harmonium, the devotees join in singing the verses of the great poet saints of the Bhakti Renaissance (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries) describing Radha and Krishna play­ing Holi with their friends.

At Indore, the business class erect a colossal figure, made of straw and clay of Nathuram (a divinity of local importance) about forty feet high. Owing to an objectionable feature, this was banned. But when the Darbar of the Princely state received a numerously signed petition and sanctioned the tradition with some clauses.

On the fifth day after the chief fire ceremonies, signifying the cremation of the season, a Darbar in large scale used to take place in the Native States, in which coloured powders and waters were thrown at the Sardars and officials. It is called Rangphanchami and is followed by people in their houses to mark the end of the festivities.

After a shower or a bath in the Ganges, people put on a fresh change of clothing, preferably immaculate white and begin another round of visiting in one another’s homes, bringing sweets, singing and making amends for any misunder­standings of the past year. Now they great one another with “dry” red powder, rubbing a bit on the foreheads and faces of those they meet and embracing with a warm “Happy Holi!”

Towards the close of the festival about the night of full moon, a bon-fire is lighted and games representing the frolics of the young Krishna take place around the expiring members. The only religious element attacked with the festival is the Krishna worship in Bengal. But of course, in some states when bonfires are made, a priest performs puja before the bonfire, people go round the fire throwing coconuts in the burning wood and grass, taking them out half-burnt and distributing the signed kernal among the assembled people as ‘prasada’.

In the Konkan men dressed as women accompanied by several persons go about with songs (often obscene) and music and dance. Holika bonfire is present almost in every state except Bengal Daulotsava festival in Assam is commonly known as Holi which is basically a fertility charm.

The original purpose of which was to promote fertility of men, animals and crops. The red power used in the Holi Festival and the vermillion stands for menstrual blood and the act of douching red powder or vermilion is believed to enhance the fertility of the earth. The Holi, then, it is most primitive form, is possibly an aboriginal usage which has been imported into Bhrahmanism, says W. Crooke.

‘Doljatra’ is observed by the Vaishnavites of Bengal in remembrance of dalliance of Radha—Krishna on this day of Holi. In some states sprinkling is done on the very day of the Holika, while in the Deccan it is indulged in on the 5th day (popularly called Ranga—panchami) after Holika bonfire.

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