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Phaalgun Poornimaa
Celebrations of Hole in Different States of India;    Another Story About Hole;    About Holee;    History of Holee Celebrations

There are four main festivals in North India, one each for four Varn. Rakshaa Bandhan for Braahman, Dashaharaa for Kshatriya, Deepaavalee for Vaishya and Holee for Shoodra. These characteristics manifest themselves in the method of their celebrations also. Holee is celebrated in a rash way as of Shoodra nature, Rakshaa Bandhan in a very quiet and decent way as of Braahman way, Dashaharaa with weapons in Kshatriya way, and Divaalee in a prosperous way as of Vaishya way.

Like all Indian and Hindu festivals, Holi is inextricably linked to mythical tales. There are at least three legends that are directly associated with the festival of colors: the Holika-Hiranyakashipu-Prahlaad episode, Lord Shiv's killing of Kaam Dev, and the story of the ogress Dhundhi.

Holikaa and Prahlaad
The evolution of the term Holee makes an interesting study in itself. Legend has it that it derives its name from Holikaa, the sister of the mythical megalomaniac king Hiranyakashyap who commanded everyone to worship him. But his little son Prahlaad refused to do so. Instead he became a devotee of Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap ordered his sister Holikaa to kill Prahlaad by taking him in her lap and entering the fire, as she possessed the power to walk through fire unharmed. She picked up the child and walked into a fire with him. Prahlaad, however, chanted the names of God and was saved from the fire. Holikaa perished because she did not know that her powers were only effective if she entered the fire alone. This myth has a strong association with the festival of Holee, and even today there is a practice of hurling cow dung into the fire and shouting obscenities at it, as if they are throwing at Holikaa. Thus Holee derives is name from Holikaa.

The Story of Dhundhi
It was also on this day that an ogress called Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prithu was chased away by the shouts and pranks of village youngsters. Although this female monster had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys was a chink in the armor for Dhundhi, owing to a curse from Lord Shiv.

Holee in Southern India-Burning of Kaam Dev
Holee is celebrated as Kaam Dahan in Southern Indian states. The festival of colors is celebrated with utmost fervor in Tamilnaadu, Karnaatak, and Aandhra Pradesh. Kaam Dahan legend about Holee describes why it is referred to as Kaamuni Punnaami Panduga. Usually, this ritual is observed on the previous day of Holee. On this day, a ritual called ‘Kaam Dahan (bonfire) is performed so Holee is also called as Kaam Mahotsav. Thus Holee is celebrated there for two days – first day is Kaam Dahan and the second day is original Holee day.

Kaam Dahan Legend : After Satee's death, Lord Shiv went into deep meditation without caring the universe. All the Gods were in trouble because at the same time a Daityanamed Vritraasur rose up so mighty with the Var of Brahmaa je that he would be killed only by a 6-day old son of Shiv. Since Shiv was in meditation, there was no chance of having a son. So Devtaa went to Kaam Dev and asked him to help them. In spite of knowing the results, that he would be burnt to ashes, he promised them to help them. he went tere where Shiv was meditating, and tried to influence him with is powers. He aimed an arrow of love at Shiv. Shiv got disturbed he woke up and opened his eyes. He opened his third eye also. With that look Kaam Dev got burnt to ashes immediately. Knowing this Kaam Dev's wife Rati felt depressed and worshipped Shiv to bring her husband to life. So, in southern states, people worship Kaam Dev on Holee day, with the simple offering of a mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste, wood and other sacred materials in the fire. People take away the ash of the holy bonfire to their homes to invite prosperity and peace.

Raadhaa-Krishn Legend
Holee is also celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Lord Krishn and Raadhaa. The young Krishn would complain to his mother Yashodaa about why Raadhaa was so fair and he so dark. Yashodaa advised him to apply color on Raadhaa's face and see how her complexion would change. In the legends of Krishn as a youth he is depicted playing all sorts of pranks with the Gopee or cowgirls. One prank was to throw colored powder all over them. So at Holee, images of Krishn and His consort Raadhaa are often carried through the streets. Holee is celebrated with eclat in the villages around Mathuraa, the birth-place of Krishn. Holee as a festival seems to have started several centuries before Christ as can be inferred from its mentions in the religious works of Jaimini's Poorv Meemaansaa-Sootra and Kathak-Grahya-Sootra.

Birthday of Shree Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu
Holee Poornimaa is also celebrated as the birthday of Shree Chaitanya Mahaaprabhu (1486-1533 AD), mostly in Bangaal, and also in the coastal city of Puree, Orissa, and the holy cities of Mathuraa and Vrindaa Van, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Holee Days
Holee-Day 1 - The day of the full moon (Holi Poornimaa) is the first day of Holee. A platter (Thaalee) is arranged with colored powders, and colored water is placed in a small brass pot (Lotaa). The eldest male member of the family begins the festivities by sprinkling colors on each member of the family, and the youngsters follow.

Holee-Day 2 - On the second day of the festival called 'Poono', images of Holikaa are burnt in keeping with the legend of Prahlaad and his devotion to Lord Vishnu. The evening is celebrated by lighting huge bonfires as part of the community celebration when people gather near the fire to fill the air with folk songs and dances. Mothers often carry their babies five times in a clockwise direction around the fire, so that her children are blessed by Agni Dev.

Holee-Day 3 - The most boisterous and the final day of the festival is called Parv, when children, youth, men and women visit each other's homes and colored powders called Abeer and Gulaal are thrown into the air and smeared on each other's faces and bodies. Pichkaaree (a kind of large syringe) and water balloons are filled with colored water and spurted onto people - while young people pay their respects to elders by sprinkling some colors on their feet, some powder is also smeared on the faces of the deities, especially Krishn and Raadhaa.

The dry colors of Holee, called 'Gulaal', in the medieval times were made at home, and the wet colors were made from the flowers of the "Tesoo" "Kesoo" or "Palaash tree, also called 'the flame of the forest'. These flowers, bright red or deep orange in color, were collected from the forest and spread out on mats, to dry in the sun, and then ground to fine dust. The powder when mixed with water made a beautiful saffron red dye. Sometimes only the dry flowers were soaked overnight in water in large pots. Next day morning the soaked flowers were thrown and the colored water is used. This pigment and also "Abeer", made from natural colored talc, which were extensively used as Holee colors, are good for the skin, unlike the chemical colors of our days.

Evidence of Holee in Past
Holee as a festival seems to have started several centuries before Christ as can be inferred from its mentions in the religious works of Jaimini's Poorv Meemaansaa Sootra and Kathak Grihya Sootra.

Holee is one of the oldest festivals among Hindu festivals. Various references are found in the sculptures on walls of old temples.
A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampee, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene depicting Holee where a prince and his princess are standing amidst maids waiting with syringes to drench the royal couple in colored water.

Another 16th century Ahmednagar painting is on the theme of Vasant Raaginee - spring song or music. It shows a royal couple sitting on a grand swing, while maidens are playing music and spraying colors with Pichakaaree (hand-pumps).

A Mewad painting (circa 1755) shows the Mahaaraanaa with his courtiers. While the ruler is bestowing gifts on some people, a merry dance is on, and in the center is a tank filled with colored water.

A Boondee miniature shows a king seated on a tusker, and from a balcony above some damsels are showering Gulaal (colored powders) on him.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 03/17/14