Holi Rituals and Traditions


The previous posts on Holi explored the various legends associated with this Indian festival of colors. 

Ras Leela

There is one legend that is particularly colorful and fascinating – that of Radha and Krishna’s Ras Leela. Those familiar with Indian culture know that Lord Krishna was known for his love of the Gopikas or lady shepherds. The mutual love they felt, was spiritual in nature, akin to that between a devotee or worshipper and the Lord, although it is often misrepresented as the infatuation between man and woman. Ras Leela is the famous festival of dance and song representing the abandonment with which Krishna, Radha and the other girls expressed their love for one another in the gardens of Brindavan. Krishna is said to have taken on multiple forms to be able to dance and celebrate with each of the Gopikas so none would leave disappointed. Today, the ritual of Ras Leela is re-enacted during Holi in some parts of India, symbolizing the colorful, joyous and enthralling manner in which pure love is expressed. Men and women, dressed in colorful costumes rejoice and dance to the beats of the Dholak.

 Some of the other traditions and rituals surrounding Holi are – 

-On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place, representing the destruction of the evil Holika, Hiranyakashyap’s sister. Bonfires are lit on streets and in some places, people burn the effigy of Holika, and rejoice in the symbolic victory of good over evil.

– Fire or Agni has great significance in Indian culture. An inherent part of many Hindu rituals, it is believed that the heat from the flames and the embers have a positive bio-physical impact, yet to be fully explained by modern Science. As people go around the fire, dancing and celebrating, they no doubt, inadvertently reap some of those benefits.

– Early the next day, the morning of Holi, people wear white clothes and leave their homes with buckets of colored water. Some use Pitchkaris or long syringes that are used to splash colored water. Powdered colors are equally popular.

– They meet on streets, in parks, in public areas and temple grounds – eager to smear each other with splashes of color and muddy water. Children engage in playing pranks and this is one day when you could get away with almost anything!

– Bhang, an intoxicating drink, is mixed with other beverages and consumed. This eliminates any remaining ounce of inhibition in the celebrations.

-After a full day of outdoor celebrations, pranks and ‘color splashing’, people go back home to wash up, offer prayers and then visit friends and relatives, exchanging home made sweets, gifts and other treats.

– Holi is also the time when the equivalent of spring cleaning takes place. People clear out clutter and redecorate their homes.

 Holi is less than a week away. How will you and your family celebrate this year? Tell us in the comments section below. What is your favorite part of Holi?

 No matter where you are, and how you celebrate, be sure to keep in mind its spiritual, cultural and social significance.

  Holi offers us the opportunity to celebrate life in all its shades.

 So, here’s wishing you colorful Holi.