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Stories By Grandpa

Holi

Narrated by: Grandpa, Edited by: Arundhati Khanwalkar
Courtesy: Association of Grandparents of Indian Immigrants (AGII)



Holi is the celebration of the color of spring in Northern India, following the wheat harvest. It comes during the month of Phagun (February-March). People are in their gayest of spirits and celebrate Holi all day by throwing colored water and colored powders at each other. The colored water is squirted during the morning with a device called "pichkari" while the colored powders, called Gulal, are smeared on people in the evening. Sweets are distributed to children and relatives visit during Holi with exchange of sweets.

In the previous night, before the day of Holi, people in the neighborhood light bon fires, called Holikas, on the cross roads. It is often a community celebration and people do pujan (worship) of goddess Holika prior to lighting the bon fire.

Bon fires date back to the days of Hiranyakashipu, when he ordered his son Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, to be burnt alive; because Hiranyakashipu hated Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu asked his sister Holika to wear the magic cloth that would not catch fire and hold Prahlad tightly on her lap so that he would die in the flames and she would not be hurt. Holika could not bear to kill the child. So she quietly transferred the magic clothes onto Prahlad and got burnt herself, thus saving Prahlad. Holika attained heaven for her pious act.

The ashes of the bone fire is streaked on the forehead of people to bring good luck in the year ahead. In front of the bon fire the neighborhood stars may have songs and dances for fun. Children roast green gram, potato and other things in the bon fire for their picnic. The bon fire may be left in its place for several days and then cleaned out.

The colorful festival of Holi is closely associated with Lord Krishna, who in his young age played and frolicked with his band of cowherds and maidens (the Gopis) of the village in the hamlets of Bridavan, Gokul and Barsana. Lord Krishna played Holi with so much gusto that even today the songs sung during Holi are full of the pranks that he played on the Gopis, especially his childhood sweet heart Radhika, who lived in Barsana.



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