Why is Holi Celebrated – Legends And Science?

Why is Holi Celebrated – Legends And Science?

With the festival of Holi just round the corner, it made me realize that how I hadn’t acquainted my little girl with this festival yet. Yes, it’s true. For one reason or the other, I didn’t get the right opportunity to tell her much about Holi. However, it had to change now. She is growing up, and it’s time she learnt about the Indian culture. Hence, I told her the stories behind Holi, the ones that my mother had told me when I was a child. 


If you haven’t told your kids these popular stories about why Holi is celebrated, you can do now. They go something like this:

Once upon a time, there was a very powerful king called Hiranyakashyap. He was a cruel king, but he thought he was a God and and wanted everyone to worship him. But, his son, Prahlad, was a great devotee of Lord Narayana, which Hiranyakashyap could not tolerate. Now, Hiranyakashyap wanted to get rid of Prahlad. So he asked his sister Holika to enter fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had been given a boon by which she could enter fire unscathed. But, things didn’t go as planned because Holika’s intentions were sinister, and hence the fire engulfed her, while Prahlad came out unharmed, all because of his devotion to Lord Narayana. This is how Holi got its name from Holika, and we celebrate Holi as a festival of victory of good over evil. Typically on the Holi eve, an effigy of Holika is burnt to mark the onset of Holi.

I remembered having asked my mother, “This makes Holi a festival of fire. Then why do we call Holi a festival of colours and play with colours?” 
Always prompt with an answer, she told me another story – my favourite one too.

Little Krishna had a dark complexion while his friend, Radha was very fair. He was very jealous of Radha’s complexion and often complained to his mother about it. Once Yashoda, Krishna’s mother suggested to him that he could apply colour on Radha’s face. It would change her complexion according to the colour of his choice. The next day, the naughty Krishna threw ‘gulal’ on Radha’s face and turned it pink. That’s when Holi, in its truest form, really started in Vrindavan, Lord Krishna’s home town.

Well, myths and legends aside, there are certain traditions too that are followed on Holi.  I have seen my mother observing them. 

One of the popular ones is of the Holi bonfire. In the evening before Holi is played, people make huge piles made of wood and cow dung. Usually, these piles are made in public places or building premises. In the late evening, these are lit. All the family members gather around it and offer gram, coconut, stalk and other grains from the harvest. They also take rounds of the bonfire. This is symbolic of doing away with evil (Holika’s intentions).


My mother said the springtime induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere and also in the body. However, when we move around the bonfire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the environment and in the body, thus cleansing it. So probably, there’s a scientific reason too behind Holi celebrations!

This Holi, I am going to take my daughter to the nearest bonfire and take rounds of the holy fire. How about you take your kids too?

Have a healthy and happy Holi!

Source for banner image: onlymyhealth.com
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