Holi is an ancient and historic festival that dates back to the Vedic era of Indian history. Even today the excitement and significance of Holi as a festival is huge. But most people associate it with just a festival of colours. Well, it is much more than that! It is also a science and an astrological event apart from the colours. The following excerpt would throw light on the significance of Holi from a different angle to give you the perspective you’ve never seen before.
Commencing Hindu Calendar – Religious Significance of Holi
The significance of the Holi festival lies in the planetary movements as well. After Makar Sankranti, as the earth advances along the sun’s orbit, the Phalguna Purnima occurs. As the full moon occurs, it marks the end of the winter season. This is also a sign of the onset of the spring season. After this Purnima, the Hindu calendar commences with its first month: Chaitra.
The Chaitra month starts when the moon completely turns full. It is an astronomical event when the winter bids goodbye and simultaneously, the summer sets in. In fact, one celebrates Holi at the exact arrival of the vernal equinox. This religious significance of Holi is as per the Hindu calendar.
History Of Holi Festival: Earlier vs Today
The history of the Holi festival is quite lengthy. Originally, during the Vedic age, people didn’t celebrate Holi the way it is today. Fun and frolic were added to the festivity later in the history of the land. In fact, the spirit of the original Holi festival was in the ritual of cleansing and purifying the atmosphere. In order to ward off the impending danger of falling sick due to the change of season, earlier people celebrated Holi.
Vedic people, therefore, thought of a ritual that was a remedy for the danger ahead. It was a two-day celebration wherein the rituals were scientific, eco-friendly, and socially sound. Thus, the Vedic men did these rituals and it was their way of welcoming Holi. However, nowadays most people don’t even know the meaning behind the festivals. Although it is celebrated with holi geet and holi song, in the chaos, the true meaning and purpose have been fading away.
Medical Significance of Holi
The playful throwing of natural colour powders on each other is not just for fun. Well, believe it or not, it also had a medical significance of Holi festival. The basic powder would ideally come from tapioca and sago. However, the colours were traditionally made of neem, bilva leaves, kumkum and haldi. The flowers of palash or taysu or the flame of the forest, aparajita, and marigold are also a part of the colour making process.
Powder form, fragrant red sandalwood, dried hibiscus flowers, and pomegranate were alternative sources of different shades of red. Mixing lime with turmeric was helpful in creating an alternative source of orange. The powder sometimes combines with mica powder to create a twinkling effect.
Unfortunately, chemically produces via industrial dyes, fake abir and gulal powders are in trend nowadays. The natural colours are no longer in use today. Medical reports also confirm and verify the harmful effects of such colours on the human body. Therefore, being conscious and making wise choices while buying colours is important. And one shouldn’t take this lightly.
Tradition Of Holika Dahan
Another scientific Holi festival significance is the tradition of Holika Dahan. When one torches the Holika or bonfire, its temperature rises to about 145°F. This leads to destroying the bacteria present in the atmosphere. When one follows the Vedic tradition, people must perform three or seven parikramas or circumambulations around the Holi bonfire. This helps in killing the bacteria inside our respective bodies.
In Holika bonfire, earlier only cow dung and timber of certain eco-friendly trees such as arrad, redi, mango and palash were a part of the process. And one used to ignite the bonfire not with matchsticks but with mantras at the exact mahurat. The muharat was usually when the moon completely became full. The purpose of Holi Dhalkan was to announce the beginning of the Chaitra month of the Hindu calendar.
Start of the Agricultural Season
Holi also marks the beginning of the rabi agricultural season. Therefore, fresh harvest from the farm such as grains, dry fruits and leaves were useful as ahuti or offerings into the Holika bonfire.
The smoke of the cow dung emitting from the bonfire was also non-poisonous and eco-friendly. In fact, it also killed the bacteria in the air, owing to the high phosphorus content in it.
The Social And Self-Grooming Significance of Holi
Last but not the least, the festival of Holi also has self-upgrading and social significance. It is a festival to end and get rid of oneself of past errors and mutual conflicts. With the practice of meeting, greeting and embracing others, one must accept things and move ahead in one’s life.
Thus, Holi is a festival of friendship and forgiveness. It is meant to create harmony in society while simultaneously flushing out stagnant winter negativity.
The Cultural Significance of Holi
Immediately, after three full days past Holi, there is a minor but very significant day. It goes via the name “basauda”. This means one observed stale food, particularly in North India. The significance is that after this day, one cannot consume stale food.
One can calculate and check that bacterial germination in cooked food would start taking place with effect from the day of basauda. This is because of weather conditions (obviously, no refrigerators were there when this tradition came into existence). The lady of the house would cook festive food on the eve of basundha. Then the entire family would consume the same food the next day. Thereafter, one would not consume stale food until the onset of the next winter.
Such old and significant traditions show that ancient Indian rituals are not mere dogmas. Our traditions and rituals are an outcome of sheer logic and reasoning. They are purely based on scientific reasoning and facts.
The unfortunate part is that most people aren’t aware of the deep meaning and significance of these Hindu rites and rituals. Well, now as you know, make sure you pass it on and spread the word. In the end, Holi is not just about the different colours in a rainbow or a pallet. It is about science, astrological events, facts and much more.