As the entire country is gripped by the euphoria of ushering in the festival of colors for yet another spring, hues and festivities have taken centerstage. A motley of myriad dyes awaiting to deck up the atmosphere in all its brilliant vibes, replete with joy and freshness, celebrations and happiness, has brought about a swish of frenzy that is steeped in all excitement and glory.
Indeed, it’s that time of the year when different shades of dark and light hues strive to unite the people with a bond of love and togetherness, when diversity is manifested as what it has always intended to be, as a strength rather than as another attempt to disrupt the peace of the nation for smaller interests.
It’s the dawn of the celebration of colors, the fun festival of Holi! As a traditional festival that has its origins in the beliefs of the Hindu community, Holi has its roots deeply intertwined with mythology. Over the years, as the festival has emerged to be a happy common ground for people of all religions and races to unite and join in the celebrations, the tales behind the tradition have turned a bit vague. But not in any way this diversity has strived to uproot the essence of this festival. In enhancing integrity among the people and in fostering a sense of brotherhood and oneness, Holi has been a true harbinger of the joy and color the festival was meant to encompass.
Like every other Indian festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, Holi also seemingly perpetuates the essentially universal belief. Obviously then, the traditions that are attributed as being the origin of Holi also bears this semblance of the hope that has sustained mankind for all- the inherent belief in the Almighty that evil will perish and the good will come to rule.
There’s no one definite story however that perpetuates the emergence and continuity of Holi as a festival of colors. Different tales have been woven in mythology throughout history and each of these relatations are believed to be the actual story behind the origin of Holi.
The most prominent among these tales are the Vishnu and Krishna legends. But what remains a tale less explored is the possible link that Lord Shiva might have borne in respect to this festival.
The significance of Holi as a festival deep rooted in traditions can be found also in the legacy of the Omnipotent Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. This particular legend draws upon Shiva’s deep devotion and unwavering penchant for meditation to explain the origin of the festival of colors.
Legend has it that once while Shiva went into deep meditation to calm down his wrath in the aftermath of the immolation of Goddess Sati, the God of Love Kama tried to ‘revive’ the Lord for stopping a powerful demon who was raging destruction on earth. The demon could only have been halted by a seven day old child and Kama’s attempt at inciting Shiva out of his mediation was a desperate plea for rescual.
However, unwavered as He has always been in His meditation, Shiva did not respond to Kama’s pleas. A distraught Kama then resorted to shooting love arrows at Shiva which infuriated the latter. Furious, Shiva burned Kama down into ashes with the power of his legendary third eye. Kama was later restored in ethereal form by Shiva after pleas by Kama’s wife Rati made Him realise the gravity of what had led the God of Love to recourse to such an action, sacrificing His self for the good of all beings. This manifestation of Kama emerging to life from death represents a form of love that is divine and true, free from bondages and rising above the lust of physicality.
This legend of Kama rising from the ashes also gave rise to two very integral Holi traditions. The custom of offering sandalwood paste to Kamadev (as one of the auspicious of the gulaals) on the occassion as well as the burning of bonfire during the festival to keep all evil forces at bay came to be very important components of the Holi festivities.
Shiva eventually united with Parvati, the incarnation of Sati, and gave birth to a son who killed the demon, the one that had led Kama to despair. Thus dawned the victory of good over evil and the festival of colors came to be celebrated in all happiness and enjoyment.
However, this isn’t the only connection that Lord Shiva bears with the festival of colors. Another legend has it that Shiva had bestowed a boon on an ogress Dhundhi that lend her immortality. However, as she went about devouring children in the kingdom of Prithu, Shiva had to direct a curse at her that put her in danger from young boys going all rowdy during Holi. Dhundhi ultimately met her end after being chased away by children’s pranks during the celebration of colors. Thus rowdy behavior, and all that forceful pestering into playing with colors came to be the accepted norm during Holi.