Holi — The Hindu Festival of Colors, India March 08 2023

Water balloons, powders of vibrant colors, feasting, music, dancing; the festival of Holi is celebrated in March in the Hindu calendar during the full moon. It celebrates the coming of spring and the triumph of good over evil.

This festival, dating back to the 4th century CE, memorializes the story of Vishnu, the god who comes to earth in one of his several incarnations as a human being — this time as Narasimha— and is the celebration of his defeat of the demon twins, Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha.

The demon Hiranyakashipu had secured a boon from the god Brahma at the beginning of time, that no human being could ever kill him, nor weapon harm him, and with this assurance the demon began to enjoy troubling heaven and earth. Brahma could not answer the pleas from people on earth to save them from the destruction of Hiranyakashipu because of this original promise. Vishnu agreed to go to earth to help.

The son of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada, was a devoted follower of Vishnu, and infuriated his father because of this. Hiranyakashipu enlisted the help of his twin to overcome Prahlada and make him give up this devotion. As father approached son, he kicked down a pillar, “If your god is omnipresent, is he in this pillar also?” Hiranyakashipu demanded. Vishnu then appeared from the pillar as Narasimha, a lion-man, and tore the twin demons apart, using one of his many arms to hold up the entrails. This event is often depicted in Hindu sculpture.

Holi is a time of rejoicing: to be here on earth and to examine one’s own errors, correct them and to seek and grant forgiveness. Coming together to douse each other with bright-colored powders encourages all to “forgive and forget!”

All over India, people are covered in colors! It is a festival of joy and light — a marvelous opportunity as winter wanes and spring strives forward!