Holi: The Festival of Colors

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Image Caption: Keeyon Ankaraju | Members of the WSU Indian Society celebrating Holi 2024

Holi is a festival of colours, and it also has profound historical roots, celebrating the victory of good over evil. Hindus celebrate Holi by gathering around bonfires, chanting prayers, singing songs, and engaging in rituals to ward off evil spirits and obtain blessings, occurring only on full moon nights, and in the morning when the streets come alive with colour, water, and love.

Origin of the story around Holi Festival: 

There are many stories about the Holi festival – some say that it is the celebration of the eternal and divine love of the two Hindu gods, Radha and Krishna. Krishna (a Hindu deity also considered a manifestation of Lord Vishnu), fell in love with a milkmaid Radha. Embarrassed that his skin was dark blue and hers was fair, he decided to change this one day by playfully coloring Radha’s face during a game with her and the other milkmaids.  

This was thought to be the origin of the throwing of colored water and powder. But in other regions the story differs. Such as the chronicle of the ancient Indian demon ruler Hiranyakashipu, who attempted to kill his son Prahlada (for being a devout worshipper of Vishnu), by making him sit on a pyre of fire with his sister Holika who would have been protected from the fire with a fire immune cloak. But instead, Prahlada was protected from the cloak, and she burnt up in flames instead.  

Later that evening, Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu. To commemorate this occasion, a pyre is lit the night before Holi in several parts of India.  

The moral of the story is that goodness triumphs over evil, love triumphs over contaminants like gender, caste, and creed, honouring love in its purest form – love expressed through unity and spirit. 

Reasons why we celebrate Holi: 

Even though we are unsure of which story is the reason we celebrate Holi, we do know that on the day of the full moon on the Hindu month “Phalguna”, societal rankings, class, creed, gender and status become obsolete.  

People from everywhere gather and cover each other with colour, with the idea that now we are all the same: the same colour, the same person and we all share the same love.

This Hindu holiday is eagerly anticipated by all of us each year since it fills many people’s hearts with love and happiness. 

How we celebrate Holi: 

On Holi, every colour we cover ourselves in has a unique symbolic meaning;. Green is a sign of rebirth and spring, and blue is the colour of Lord Krishna’s complexion. Both red and yellow, which are frequently used in ritual and ceremony, symbolise auspiciousness. Red represents marriage or fertility.  

What sticks in our recollections the most about the Holi festival’s arrival to Sydney is how people from different ethnic origins are accepted for who they are and how their combined cultures celebrate this festival and foster unity among all of us. 

Also, bringing religious cultures from around the world isn’t just about inclusivity but also the start of opening the doors to all kinds of backgrounds and traditions.

What’s exciting is how we all get to experience a slice of each other’s cultures – from bopping to the beats of Indian music to munching on some seriously tasty treats, it’s a full-on sensory overload in the best possible way. 

Holi brings everyone together: 

In a world where it feels as if we are more divided than ever, this festival is a reminder that we are all in this together. It’s like one big, colourful hug that reminds us that underneath it all, we’re all just human. 

So, when we think back on Holi hitting Sydney, it’s not just about the colours or the chaos—it’s about the sense of unity and belonging that comes with it. And that’s something worth celebrating long after the colours have faded away. 

Author: Keeyon Ankaraju | Edited by Anya Wikramanayake

Anya Wikramanayake

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