Holi is a festival that reminds us of a vibrant and colourful life which God has bestowed upon us. The colours with which Holi is played denotes the various facets of life, moods, emotions, situations, attachments and aversions, spiritual gyan, seasons, nature, evolution and involution of the universe, unity in diversity, maya, one becoming many and many being one.
In reality, colours are nothing but perception as there are no colours in the universe. The light in different frequencies is perceived as different colours. Life would have been boring if our brain would not have perceived different colours. Imagine a world without any colour; everything would exist only in black and white! How dull, boring, monotonous life would have been.
As all the various colours get emanated from one source, so is the universe. Universe has emanated from one supreme divine source. That one only has become many and in many that one alone exists. When we see many as reality then it is called maya and in many when that one source is seen it’s called enlightenment.
Enlightenment is clouded by the negative nature of the mind, which includes excessive attachment to things and beings, fear for loss of things and beings, feelings of anger, disappointment, anxiety, revenge, enmity, jealousy, hatred, etc.
Holika Dahan, a name given to the Holi bonfire, is a ritual practised on the night preceding Holi festival. During Holika Dahan logs of wood, old furniture, clothes, waste material, etc., are burnt in the bonfire denoting burning of Holika, a demoness and the sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu.
Legend says that king Hiranyakashipu, the father of Prahlad, once ordered Holika to take Prahlad in her lap and sit in the bonfire to kill him. Holika had a protective shawl, which would protect her from fire, so she invited Prahlad to sit in her lap, wrapped the shawl on her shoulders and entered the bonfire. Prahlad was a staunch devotee of Lord Narayana. He would always chant his name in ecstasy. So he willingly sat in Holika’s lap and continued chanting Narayana Narayana unafraid of the fire. Suddenly a strong wind blew away Holika’s shawl and it landed on Prahlad’s shoulders. Thus Prahlad got protected from the fire and Holika got burnt into ashes and died. This is the origin of the ritual Holika Dahan, meaning burning of Holika.
This ritual signifies burning of inner demons like negative thoughts, hatred, jealousy, enmity and revenge. Once these are destroyed and the inner self is cleansed then to celebrate the victory of good over evil Holi is played with enthusiasm by dousing people with colours, singing songs, dancing and feasting.
Holi is also called spring festival as this day marks the end of the gloomy winter and the beginning of spring.
Holi also signifies the joyous rasleela of Lord Krishna with gopis. While rasleela is considered a divine dance between the Lord and his women devotees, the gopis, spiritually it signifies that the Lord is present in every being. During rasleela, Lord Krishna acquired many forms and made every gopi feel that he was dancing exclusively with her. This symbolises unity in diversity. Diversity makes one’s life vibrant and colourful, and unity in it makes everyone love every other soul unconditionally.