Holi is an ancient religious Hindu festival that celebrates the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.
Whilst it is known as the ‘festival of Spring’ and celebrates the auspicious start of a bountiful spring harvest season in India, it’s popularly known as the ‘festival of colours’.
Holi is traditionally a two-day festival that has gained popularity around the world where many Hindu’s have settled abroad.
The first day of the festival is celebrated as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi.
On that day after sunset, Hindu worshippers traditionally gather around the pyre, perform puja or prayers and then light the pyre. The fire and the burning of the effigy of Holika symbolises the triumph of good over bad.
The second day of the festival is celebrated as Rangwali Holi (or referred to as Dhuleti) or the Festival of Colours, where people drench each other with water and wear white clothing which takes on the coloured dye powder or ‘gulal’ that revellers throw on each other.
The coloured dye is a deeply rooted tradition underpinned by an ancient Hindu legend that tells the story of Lord Krishna being worried that his consort Radha would no longer hold affection for him after he was cursed with blue skin by a demon. After complaining to his mother Yahsoda, she suggested that her son paint Radha’s face whatever colour he chose and he did so with the flying ‘gulal’ dye.
The colours also hold individual significance with blue representing Krishna, red symbolising love, fertility and marriage and green denoting a fresh beginning.
In ancient times ‘gulal’ was natural made from spices, flowers, plants like the Flame of the Forest and the Indian Coral Tree. Due to overwhelming demand, synthetic dyes became common in the mid-19th century and more recently there has been a campaign to return to plant based dyes.
The throwing of the coloured dye powder into the atmosphere generates a certain energy that is uplifting and is considered the most vibrant part of the festival.
Whilst Holi is traditionally a Hindu Festival it has wider appeal because of its core principle – that for the festival, everyone is equal and the colours on the face and clothing hide all class and caste divisions.
It is usually an auspicious time to visit family and friends and wish each other well.
To mark the occasion, Indian families prepare a type of sweet dumpling called gujiya, that is filled with dried fruits and nuts spiced with cardamom. There are many regional variations, but common fillings include pistachios, cashews, coconut, and raisins.
Holi has been celebrated in ancient India for more than 1600 years and every state celebrates the festival differently.
Holika Dahan is another legend where the story of Holi originated from.
Holi is associated with the legend of Hiranyakashipu, a demon king in ancient India who wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship him.
His son, Prahlad, was a devoted worshipper of Lord Vishnu. Angry with the disobedience of his son, Hiranyakashipu enlisted the help of his sister, Holika, to kill his son.
Holika possessed a special power of being immune to fire and sat with Prahlad on a pyre while wearing a cloak that protected her but the cloak protected Prahlad instead, and Holika burned to ashes.
This is why the first day of Holi is celebrated as Holika Dahan as it represents the triumph of good over evil.
Celebrating Holi in India:
With the surge in positive cases of the Coronavirus in India there has been a ban on all public celebrations including Holi where large numbers of people usually gather.
Celebrating Holi in Australia:
In Australia, due to the lower number of COVID-19 cases organisers of large festival gatherings were given cautious approval with Holi being celebrated in most of the large capital cities around Australia.
Festival organisers had to ensure the events were in line with a COVID-Safe Plan and all those interested had to register to attend the event.
Yogen Lakshman, Holi Festival organiser Australian Indian Innovations Inc, in Melbourne said:
“I’m extremely proud of how the community in Melbourne came out in force to celebrate Holi, the Festival of love and colours. Melbourne has faced some of the toughest lockdowns of all the states in Australia in the past year but on this occasion of Holi, we really enjoyed the 2-day event which attracted 9,000 people in total. Due to the COVID restrictions we were only allowed (1,500 per session and we had three sessions each day). As the organisers of one of the largest Holi festivals in Melbourne we had a challenge to ensure we abided by the COVID Safe guidelines at all times with the supply of sanitisers and face masks and social distancing rules where possible. A big thanks to the City of Melbourne, the Department of Health, all our sponsors and everyone who attended to make this a COVID Safe Holi.”
The Holi Festival celebrations on the Gold Coast over the weekend was organised by the Indian Community of Gold Coast (ICGC).
Seema Chauhan*, a prominent Indian Community Influencer on the Gold Coast said:
“Of all the festivals we celebrate back in India, Holi is my favourite. The unbridled joy of revellers turning up in large numbers, dancing to their hearts’ content while splashing colours evoked so much nostalgia. The vibrant colours of Holi are so symbolic of the fun and community spirit of Gold Coast. We all had so much fun. I can’t wait to celebrate again next year.”
India is located in southern Asia. It is bordered by the Arabian Sea, Laccadive Sea, and the Bay of Bengal to the south; Bhutan, Nepal, China, and Pakistan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to the east.
In 2016, there were 675,658 people in Australia who claimed Indian ancestry constituting 2.8 per cent of the Australian population.
According to the 2016 census figures, there were more than 440,300 that indicated a religious affiliation to Hinduism. making up 1.9% of the population.
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