People dancing during Holy celebration, Mussoorie.
Holi is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus, as a festival of colours. It is one of the major festivals of India, celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety on the full moon day in the month of Phalgun which is the month of March as per the Gregorian calendar. It is primarily observed in India and Nepal. It is observed by the minority Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan as well in countries with large Indic diaspora populations following Hinduism, such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the United States, Mauritius, and Fiji. Holi festival may be celebrated with various names and people of different states might be following different traditions. But, what makes Holi so unique and special is the spirit of it which remains the same throughout the country and even across the globe, wherever it is celebrated.
Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the Holi festival. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hindu mythology. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly. Entire country wears a festive look when it is time for Holi celebration. Market places get abuzz with activity as frenzied shoppers start making preparations for the festival. Heaps of various hues of gulal and abeer can be seen on the roadside days before the festival.
Pichkaris in innovative and modern design too come up every year to lure the children who wish to collect them as Holi memorabilia and of course, to drench everybody in the town. Womenfolk too start making early preparations for the holi festival as they cook loads of gujiya, mathri and papri for the family and also for the relatives. At some places specially in the north women also make papads and potato chips at this time.
Great excitement can be seen in people on the next day when it is actually the time for the play of colours. Shops and offices remain closed for the day and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colours of gulal and abeer fill the air and people take turns in pouring colour water over each other. Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris and throwing water balloons and passersby. 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 mouth-watering Holi delicacies are the other highlights of the day. Lovers too apply colours on their beloved. This has a popular legend behind it. It is said that the naughty and mischievous Lord Krishna started the trend of playing colours. He applied colour on her beloved Radha to make her one like him. The trend soon gained popularity amongst the masses.
There is also a tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this day to further enhance the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display. Some, however, take bhang in excess and spoil the spirit. Caution should therefore be taken while consuming bhang delicacies. After a funfilled and exciting day, the evenings the spent in sobriety when people meet friends and relatives and exchange sweets and festive greetings.
It is said the spirit of Holi encourages the feeling of brotherhood in society and even the enemies turn friend on this day. People of all communities and even religions participate in this joyous and colouful festival and strenthen the secular fabric of the nation.
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