Sunday, 26 February 2017
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On the fifth day of the dark half of Phalgun the feast of Color is celebrated. The festival marks the end of the year according to the Indian calendar, and the spirit of festivity is alive in every Hindu household.

It is celebrated throughout India in early spring with cheer and gaiety.

Holi comes when the cold winter months give way to summer. It takes place over two days around late February or March on a Poornima (or Pooranmashi) Full Moon as per the Hindu calendar.

On the evening of the first day of Holi, a public bonfire is held, commemorating the burning of Holika. The fire is lit sometime between 10 PM and midnight (at the rising of the moon). Everyone gathers in the street for the event, and the air rings with shouts, catcalls, curses and general mayhem.

The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name "Festival of Colors."

This ritual is said to be based on the story of Krishna and Radha as well as on Krishna's playful splashing of the maids with water, but most of all it celebrates the coming of spring with all its beautiful colors and vibrant life.

Hiranyakashipu was the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed 'during day or night; inside the home or outside; not on earth or on sky, neither by a man nor an animal'. Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him. But his own son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and still survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts at killing him failed. Ultimately he ordered young Prahlad to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. Prahlad readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika, who, then was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar to show for it, after the shawl moved on to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.

This feast is also known as "kamdahan" (the burning of lust), or "Madandahan" (the burning of Madan). As the story goes, in order to destroy the demon Tarkasur, the gods thought that only the son of Shankar would have the needed power. But Shankar was lost in meditation, not at all interested in marriage or sexual pleasure. As Shankar was deeply engrossed in his penance, the gods sent Madan to tempt him. Madan tried to draw Shankar's attention towards Parvati. Then Shankar became angry and opening his third eye on his forehead, he cast a fiery look on Madan and reduced him to ashes.

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