Hindus in West Yorkshire and around the world have started to begin celebrating Holi.
Originating in India, Holi is a two-day ancient Hindu festival also known as the Festival of Love or the Festival of Colour, popularly associated with the legend of King Hiranyakashipu, signifying the triumph of good over evil, of devotion overpowering egoistic ambition.
The festival celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring, a day for friends, family, and strangers to come together to play, laugh, and mend any broken relationships.
Holi celebrations start on the night before known as Holika Dahan, where people gather and perform religious rituals in front of a bonfire, praying that their internal evil is destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire.
The following morning is Rangwali Holi, the day people most associate with the festival, when people play with colour. In India where the weather is warmer, people play with coloured water and powder, but in places such as the UK where the weather is often cold during March, organic coloured powder is preferred.
Colour is used in the festival as it celebrates the relationship between Radha, a goddess and chief consort of deity Krishna. Krishna was born blue believed that Radha would not talk to him because of the colour of his skin.
It was then that Krishna’s mother advised him to put colour on Radha and then they wouldn’t look different at all. They fall in love and get married which is where the significance of colour comes from.
The playful throwing of natural coloured powders, called gulal also has a medicinal significance where the colours are traditionally made of neem, kumkum, haldi, bilva, and other medicinal herbs suggested by Ayurvedic doctors.
Seema Buttoo, a faith advisor for Bradford Hindu Council and a Hindu faith tutor for Bradford Council for over two decades, said: “Holi is celebrated around this time. A bit like Easter, Holi changes every year as Hindu festivals are based on the lunar calendar.
“Today, people remember the story of a devotee called Prahlad, who was only five years old when he stood up for what was wrong in his kingdom – his own father who told him that there was no such thing as a God, and he should be worshipped as a God himself.
“The King’s son didn’t stand for this because he knew his father was wrong and his belief in Lord Vishnu saved him from death twice.
“So, Holika Dahan reminds people that when things are wrong, you take a stand and raise your voice to bring justice to the table.”
Mrs Buttoo added: “Tomorrow is more of a fun day, where people play with colours. In India, it is celebrated slightly different to the UK, mostly because of the weather.
“Spring brings happiness and hope which is what the festival is about.
“As Rangwali Holi falls on a Friday where most people celebrating will be at work or school, most people will celebrate with their families in the afternoon and will come together as a community in a party on Saturday.
“Since Covid-19, people haven’t been able to come together to celebrate this festival. After two years of not being able to get together, this will be the first one which makes it very exciting.”
In Bradford, the Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple will be hosting a free Holi party between 12 noon and 3pm with music, colours, food, and raffle prizes are to be had.
In Leeds, a seven-hour celebration is being held at Beaver Works organised by Eshaan Kapoor, complete with an outdoor colour party, Bollywood DJs and dancing, and street food on offer. For tickets, visit here.
Asian Standard wishes our readers a very happy Holi.