Celebrated to mark the advent of Spring with its colorful and fragrant blooms, Holi is usually celebrated in March every year. Splash of colors adds charm to it and the mischievous romance mixed with boisterous singing and dancing makes it stand apart from other Hindu festivals that are usually sober and focus more on praying and get blessings from the elders. It does not mean that these two traditions are not part of Holi celebrations but there is lot more to see and do in Holi. A night before the main celebration day, people light huge bonfires to mark the end of winter season. The bonfire also reminds us of the legend of Holi.
It is said that there used to be a cruel demon-kind Hirnakashyap who had banned worshipping of Lord Vishnu in his kingdom, on the penalty of death. His 6-year old son Prahlad was an ardent Vishnu devotee himself and refused to accept the ban. This infuriated the demon king and he ordered his soldiers to kill his son. However, their every attempt was foiled by Lord Vishnu, who saved Prahlad from drowning into the river and from hitting the rocks, when he was thrown from a high mountain. This bewildered everybody included the demon-king. Holika, who had a saree that could keep her unharmed in the fire as a boon, stepped ahead to help his brother in his evil designs and entered a huge bonfire with Prahlad. However, Lord Vishnu saved Prahlad yet again as the blessed saree covered Prahlad, and Holika bore the brunt of her own cruelty by burning in the fire. It is said that Holi is celebrated to commemorate the event and the piety of the little boy.
Other legends related to Holi include the one which says that God of Love, Romance and Spring (known as Kama Deva) rose from death on this day after being burnt by Lord Shiva. It is also said that it was on this day, when infant Krishna sucked the life essence of the demoness Putana, when she tried to kill him by putting poison on her nipples. To this day, effigies of Putana are burnt in Mathura as one of the Holi rituals. Holi celebrations find favor in North India. In Barsana, women use long sticks to fend off men with gulaal and long water guns known as pichkaris. Extensive use of colors, sweets, crispy snacks and bhaang (an intoxicant) is believed to transport one to ultimate liberation and boundless love for everyone.