Holi, the festival of colors, is celebrated on the day after the full moon in the Bengali month of Phalgun. It includes different rituals like a public bonfire, puja (worship), merrymaking, throwing and applying of colored water and avir (colored powder) at each other etc. In Bengal it is also called Phagwa, Dolyatra etc.
On the evening of the first day of Holi a public bonfire is held. It is associated with two legends. The first legend involves Prahlad, a devotee of Vishnu. His father was an evil king named Hiranyakashipu who forbade Prahlad to worship Vishnu. But Prahlad did not pay heed to his father. Getting angry with his son, Hiranyakashipu tried to wane his son from Vishnu in many ways. But when it failed, Hiranyakashipu ordered his son to sit on a pyre with his wicked sister, Holika, who was believed to immune to fire. But when the fire started, Holika was burnt to death, while Prahlad, the devotee of Vishnu, survived without a scar. Another legend related to the ritual of bonfire involves Lord Shiva, one of the Triad. According to the legend, Lord Shiva spent a long time in deep meditation. Madana, the god of love, decided to test His intentness. He (Madana) appeared to Shiva as a form of a pretty nymph. But Shiva could easily recognize Madana and He was filled with rage. He shot fire out of His third eye and reduced him (Madana) to ashes. Many Shiva devotees think this story as a basis of bonfire held on the first day of the Holi. However, Sanatan devotees celebrate Holika Dahan (the burning of Holika) or Kama Dahan (the burning of Kama Deva) annually.
The most attractive ritual of the festival of Holi is throwing and applying of colored water and avir (colored powder) on friends and families. It relates to a story which is favorite to Vaishnav devotees.. According to the story, Lord Krishna was sad over His dark complexion and wondered why Radha was so fair. He complained His mother, Yashodha about it. Yashoda playfully suggested her son to apply color on Radha’s face and change her complexion any color He wanted. Krishna proceeded to do that and thus the colorful ritual of Holi was introduced. Holi is spread out over two days (in some places it is longer). On the first day (Jalanwali Holi/ Chotti Holi), the bon fire and puja are held. This ritual is known as Holika Dahan or Kama Dahan mentioned above. The main celebration follows the next day (Dhulendi/ Dhulandi/Dhuleti/Dhulheti). People are seen in a happy mood. They sprinkle colored water and smear their faces with colored powders. Many people celebrate the occasion with delicious foods and desserts. The day is also celebrated as the Gour Purnima/appearance of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Holi, the Spring festival, is an important Sanatan Hindu festival. It is symbolical and significant to a devotee’s life. If a true devotee concentrates deeply on the creation of the universe, he/she can see nothing but the color of heavenly love and he/she can hear nothing but the chanting of God’s sweet name. Every year the Holi, the carnival of colors, comes to us with that love and sweet name of God. The festival also gives us the message of friendship and goodwill. At least for one day we can forget all types of social discriminations by the grace of Lord. So, say – HAPPY HOLI.