A palette of hues curating the charms of its celebration, replete of course with streaks of love and happiness and the classic tale of good triumphing over evil, Holi spans as revelry of a different kind. The emotions permeating the vibe of this two day festival is one of a special charm, palpable in a myriad of such feels each radiant in their own specific character. Whether it be its most popular occurring as the Festival of Colors or in as quintessential expressing of its essence as the Festival of Love and the Spring Festival, the splashes of exuberance that Holi is known for are variedly vivid.
Like every other festival though, Holi too is characteristic in its bevy of celebrations unfurling through a route of food and drinks and sweets and treats, not to forget the as colorful range of decorations validating yet again its foremost identity. Pretty designs of nature are depicted in all artistry, as brilliantly colored rangolis do up the entire facade of the celebration. Sometimes flowers, sometimes gulaal being their nature of expression, these rangolis paint a picture indeed of Holi that happen to be as significant in their symbolism as they are in the span of their sightliness.
Holi also is as much about the spirit in which it is celebrated, with such frenzy and enthusiasm that has seen it transcend the domains of Hinduism in which it originated. So alluring is the unique excitement held by these colors of the festival that sees it being celebrated different in different parts of the world. Sure, Holi still is very much the Indian festival of colors but such is the dazzle of its donning the striking garb of emotions that has endowed upon it a character as global as can be.
Most resplendent in its flowing through such surge of the feels would be the identity of Holi as being a festival steeped also in the magic of love. One of the many theories that prevail in explaining the origins and significance of Holi happens to be exclusively drawn upon a narrative of love. Very prominent in its stemming from the divine love characterising the eulogising of Radha- Krishna is this identity of Holi profuse thus in the shades of a color so evoking of the rosy riches of a love redolent in its stirring of the reds.
Love indeed bears a special connection with Holi in ways that does not express just in the traditional and religious essence of the festival. Love instead is imbued in every aspect of what Holi celebrates and what it is celebrated in, endowing it with a character more cosmopolitan that what one would expect it to be. And why not indeed? As a festival that marks the advent of spring which itself is resplendent in its recognition as the season of love, Holi is more than romantic a celebration in which life deciphers for itself a worth in celebrating.
Holi celebrates so many emotions through which life unravels, whether it be in the glories of the Gods or the bounties of nature. But it also celebrates in as much gusto the blossoming of love and the chirpy springs of relationships. Not surprising it is then that like all other festivals, Holi too holds in itself such promise that has humans seeking indeed to rekindle romances and build back broken relations, in a devotion particularly intense in this conducive period of its springtime occurring.
Despite the popularity of Holi as a festival of love being more elocuted a tale in celebrating the bond shared by the most favorite of the divine couples of Hinduism, the nature of this identity of the colorful celebrations that conjures up largely the charm of Holi is one traceable also to another godly living of love. In fact this telling of tale evokes the Kamadeva, the Hindu God of love himself, making Holi find even more relevance as a revelry in romance. This lore of love is particularly significant in the celebrations that occur in south India with Holi falling 40 days after Vasant Panchami as an occasion marking the return of Kamadeva to life after having been burnt to ashes by Lord Shiva. Worshipping this God of love and making offerings to him is customary a celebration of Holi in south India.
Particularly in the states of Telangana and Tamil Nadu, this expression of love takes centerstage as being the essence of Holi. In fact the local name of the festival in Telangana is Kama Purnima and it is a ritual of Kama Dahanam instead of Holika Dahan that characterise celebrations in this part of the country. The celebrations are even more diverse in Tamil Nadu where Holi does not find significant expression as a festival. But the love theme integral to Holi finds reverence still in the state in the separate festivities of Panguni Uthiram.
A festival that signifies the blossoming of love and marriage, this ‘spinoff’ of Holi sees Tamils worshipping many of the eternal couples that Hinduism deifies. Temples all over the state celebrate the divine marriages of Rati and Kamadeva, Shiva and Parvati, Murugan and Deivanai, Kodhai Aandaal and Rangamannar as part of the festivities. The day of the festival is also believed to be the wedding anniversary of Sita and Rama, and occurs also as celebrations of the glory of grahasta dharma or married life.
Love then is one key construct of the Holi character, that comes to drench it in an identity as ebullient as its hearty expression as the Festival of colors. Red in fact is one of the dominant colors of the festival, and in its symbolism that invokes all the feels of love and romance and passion- and fertility even, reinstates once again the beauty of this emotion through which Holi ventures into the spring of life indeed. And yet love and marriage- or auspiciousness rather is not the norm for a period of eight days immediately preceding the festival.
Referred to as Holasthak, this span of time as definitely dictating the Holi celebration in an ironic manner of its dawning though is rested once again upon the mythological tale of Kamadeva. This is supposed to be observed as a period of penance due to the inauspiciousness of its nature that which also makes it an unfavourable time for everything from marriages and engagements to housewarmings and businesses to be observed. The reasoning emerges upon astronomical assumptions of the planets residing in a fiery nature during this period even as scientific hypothesis attributes this probable character of the omen to a rampant prevalence of negative energy.
Holasthak though can be explained also in such notions that do not derive from the emotion of love. The draw instead would be in the alternate legend of Vishnu in which Prahlad was tortured by his own father, the king Hiranyakashipu for his devotion to the protector God of the universe. Holashtak marks the eight days of suffering that the Vishnu devotee was made to endure, ultimately salvaged by the burning of his aunt Holika.
Even in such manner of its prevalence, Holi still stands for a love that the human feels and bears in their heart- whether it manifest as the divine realisation in devotion or unfurl as shades of romance or brotherhood or goodwill even, this is a festival forever fancied in the sparks of colors and cares of its composition.