What is the Holi festival and why is it celebrated by throwing colored powder?
Holi, a traditional Hindu festival, celebrates the beginning of spring as well as the triumph of good over evil. It is best known around the world for the powder that revelers throw on each other, leaving festival goers coated in color by the end of the day.
Although the festival originated in India and is still widely celebrated there as a religious festival, it has been adopted in many places around the world.
On Monday – the day this year’s festivities kick off, Google has marked Holi with a special Doodle.
What is the story behind Holi?
Holi’s different celebrations come from various Hindu legends. One story tells the story of how the god Vishnu saved his follower Prahlada from a pyre while Prahlada’s evil aunt Holika burned.
The night before the Holi festival a Holika bonfire is burned to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
The colored powder – or gulal – thrown during the festival come from the legend of Krishna, whose skin was dark blue. Worried he wouldn’t be accepted by his love Radha, he mischievously colored her face to make her like himself.
Today, anyone at Holi is fair game to be covered in the perfumed powder as a celebration of Krishna and Radha’s love, regardless of age or social status. The powder also signifies the coming of spring and all the new colors it brings to nature.
What is the colored powder and what does it mean?
Historically, the gulal was made of turmeric, paste and flower extracts, but today synthetic versions are largely used.
The four main powder colors are used to represent different things. Red reflects love and fertility, blue is the color of Krishna, yellow is the color of turmeric and green symbolizes spring and new beginnings.
Google’s Doodle shows the search engine’s logo being covered in powder, and on the Google iOS and Android app you can spray the logo with different colors.
How is it celebrated today?
While Holi is an ancient festival in India and Nepal, it is celebrated in many parts of the world today. Hindu communities in many countries, as well as non Hindus, join in.
In London, there is a music festival on July 29 – more than four months after the actual Holi festival.
Western versions of Holi have been criticized for cultural appropriation, essentially becoming raves that take little inspiration from the Hindu festival beyond its use of colored powder.
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