Holi or Phagwah (bohpuri) is a popular, festival, observed in North India and Nepal also called the Festival of Colours. In West Bengal it is known as Dolyatra (Doljatra) or Boshonto Utsav (“spring festival”). The legend of King Hiranyakashipu is associated with the festival of Holi. This legend signifies the victory of good over evil, of devotion surpassing ambition. King Hiranyakashipu was an ambitious ruler, one who wanted absolute power so that he would be worshipped as God.
When this wish was made known, the King’s own son, Prahlad, refused to obey his father. Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, and it was only to his Lord that he gave allegiance. The proud King was enraged by Prahlad’s disobedience and decided to punish him severely. He asked his sister Holika for help. It was believed that Holika was immune to fire and would never be burnt, so the King asked Holika to sit in the centre of a bonfire with Prahlad on her lap.The bonfire was lit, and young Prahlad sat in Holika’s lap, in its centre, praying to Lord Vishnu. His devotion saved him, leaving him untouched by the flames, but Holika was burnt to ashes. To mark this legend, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Holi Vrindavan and Lord Krishna’s legend of courting Radha and playing pranks on the Gopis are also the essence of Holi. Krishna and Radha are depicted celebrating Holi in the Hamlet of Gokul, Barsana and Vrindavan, bringing them alive with mischief and youthful pranks.
Holi was Krishna and Radha’s celebration of affectionate panorama of feeling and colour. These scenes have been captured and immortalised in the songs of Holi. The festival that is also the harbinger of the light, warm, beautiful days of Spring.
Maybe today Holi is more about colour and fun, but its significance is ultimately the triumph of good over evil.