Holi (Holi punhi/ Holi Purnima)

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Holi (Holi punhi/ Holi Purnima) image
Image by Chandra Chakradhar

Holi is the festival of colors, spring, and music that foremost is celebrated with great joy especially, in Nepal and India. During the festival, peoples splash color, as well as colorful water at one another making all those white t-shirts, looks like a rainbow.

Meanwhile, Children play holi using Pichkari, a water gun where they fill up the colorful water and dash them to each other. Also, dashing through the water balloons filled with colored waters was one of the striking things that today’s kids barely practice, since this thing is considered unlawful, nowadays.

Moving forward, the Holi festival naturally fills the environment with different colors and sentiments. Meanwhile, Bhang, which is a special kind of drink is also consumed by the people living in the Terai part of Nepal.

Holi, on the other hand, is said to be the day of giving forgiveness. This day people resolve their conflicts with each other and play holi concurrently. Also, it symbolizes the day of fairness considering, people do not care anything about the religion, caste, or nationality of those with whom they are playing holi.

Holi celebration in Kathmandu

Holi is celebrated for eight days in Kathmandu and it falls right before the full moon of the month of Phalgun (full moon day of March-April). And, of course, during that time townsmen indulge in throwing powdered pigments at each other.

The festival of color gets always heralded by the raising of a wooden pole, known as chir, festooned with colorful streamers beside the old royal palace at Basantapur (the Kathmandu Durbar Square). The Holi festival gets organized under the supervision of the Guthi office, and the Religious Endowments of Government, and is celebrated with joy and gaiety all over the country.

It gets terminated with the burning of the pole on the night preceding the Phalgun full moon, the full moon day of Phalgun.

In the Newari Buddhist communities of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, there are different beliefs and practices. In Kathmandu, it is known as ‘Guhuru Nyayekegu’, and on this day the devotees take part in the chariot procession of the statue of Chakramanshila around Thamel, Indrachowk, Banggemuda, and back to the Temple.

On occasion, they also display and take in procession the previous four books of Pragyaparamita written by Maha Manjushree, in gold and silver, while spending some time in Bikramshila Mahabihar in Thamel. 

Holi celebration in Bhaktapur

In Bhaktapur, one wooden phallus is taken around the streets of Inacho, Bachutol, Jenla, Jagati, Brahmayani, and Chyamasingh during Holi. Devotees worship this wooden pole and make offerings as it is taken around in a procession to each house and shop along the route.

The installation of a pole symbolizing the phallus of the Hindu God Bhimsen in front of Dattatreya Temple, amidst the singing of a Newari hymn with a sexual connotation starts the holi festival in Bhaktapur. Devotees thronged to pay obeisance to this wooden pole about three feet long and 30 inches in diameter and cut in the shape of a human phallus.

In some places, the Holi gets celebrated relating to Hindu God Krishna and in some with the Prahalad. In general, it is a colorful festival celebrated by all ages and religions at the beginning of springtime.

Highlights of the Holi festival

  • Newar Buddhists and others worship the Saraswati shrine in Vajrayogini temples and celebrate the festival with their friends.
  • Traditional concerts are held in most cities in Nepal, including Kathmandu, Narayangarh, Pokhara, Itahari, Hetauda, and Dharan, and are broadcast on television with various celebrity guests.
  • People walk through their neighborhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colors and spraying colored water on one another.
  • Many people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as is also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colors at this festival takes all sorrow away and makes life itself more colorful.
  • On this day most Nepalese wear a white t-shirt. The white t-shirt or clothes are used so that the color of the clothes is seen clearly. Various colors are used in Holi so that they get a chance to live a year full of happiness and colorful things. Some of the people also keep the clothes used in holy without washing to keep the joy and the memory alive. 

The legend related to the Holi Festival

Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival. It is an important major Nepal-wide festival just like Dashain Tihar. It is celebrated in the Nepali month of Phagun and signifies the legends of the Hindu god Krishna.

As per the legend, Krishna’s skin was dark blue because a demoness had tried to poison him when he was a baby, and Krishna was worried that Radha wouldn’t like him because of his appearance. His mother, Yashoda, playfully suggested that he smear some brightly colored powder on Radha’s face. After Krishna did this, Radha fell in love with him.

Vishnu and Prahalad legend

The most popular story of the Holi festival is about the victory of good over evil. The story includes the Hindu God Vishnu as well as his devotee Prahlada. In chapter 7 of the holy book of Hindu “Bhagavata Purana,” there is a story of a king named Hiranyakashipu. It is said that he was the king of the Asura “Demons” and have some special boon given by the god.

Because of the boon, neither a human being nor an animal could kill him. Similarly, he was immortal inside and outside any house. Neither in the daytime nor at night time, neither by any projectile weapons nor by any kind of handheld weapons. And last nobody could kill him on land, water, or air.

Seeing such devotion towards Vishnu makes Hiranyakashipu even more furious. Which made him call his sister Holika to trick Prahlada to sit with her in a burning fire. Holika was an expert at tricking people and sits on the fire wearing a cloak that makes her immune from fire.

Meanwhile, Prahalada was sitting without any protection. After both of them sat inside a fire was born. But in the end, the fire burned Holika whereas Praladha was alive without any burns on his whole body.

After seeing such activity Lord Vishnu appears in front of all of him in the form of Narasimha (half human and half lion). He was aware of the boon of the Hiranyakashipu. Because of that, he chooses at dusk to take Hiranyakashipu to the doorstep and placed him on his lap. After that, he used his lion claws to kill him. After that, it is believed that the Holi festival originated.

Kama and Rati legend

Among other Hindu traditions such as Shaivism and Shaktism, the legendary significance of Holi is linked to Shiva in yoga and deep meditation, goddess Parvati wanting to bring back Shiva into the world, seeks help from the Hindu god of love called Kamadeva on Vasant Panchami.

The love god shoots arrows at Shiva, and the yogi opens his third eye and burns the Kama to ashes. This upsets both Kama’s wife Rati (Kamadevi) and his own wife Parvati. Rati performs her own meditative asceticism for forty days, upon which Shiva understands, forgives out of compassion, and restores the god of love.

This return of the god of love is celebrated on the 40th day after the Vasant Panchami festival like Holi. The Kama legend and its significance to Holi have many variant forms, particularly in South India.

Lyrics of the typical newari song of Holi

Abiraya Holi Tah Chayaalaa Lyasei, Abirah Chhangu khwa Hisi Dekaabi (2)

Nhapalipa Machhasha, Thaula Pyakhah Hula Kyah (2)
Jimtana Mijah Teithe, Abir Tayaa kyah (2)
Abir Tayaa kyah
Abiraya Holi Tah Chayaalaa Lyasei, Abirah Chhangu khwa Hisi Dekaabi (2)

Dachhi Taka Piyaa Wogu, Thauthei Jaagu Holi (2)
Ukisana Mhitipi Jhithei Jaapi Jolie (2)
Jhithei Jaapi Jolie
Abiraya Holi Tah Chayaalaa Lyasei, Abirah Chhangu khwa Hisi Dekaabi (2)

Jhya lay chowngu tukah mha, Wohae lyase jita ma (2)

Wo lyase maday ka ja hae manaya (2)
ja hae manaya
Abiraya Holi Tah Chayaalaa Lyasei, Abirah Chhangu khwa Hisi Dekaabi (2)

This song was first used in the newari film “Silu,” and it quickly became a sensation. Today, Holi in the Kathmandu valley appears to be incomplete without this song. Furthermore, the music of this song is so pleasing that there might be many people or generations who wouldn’t appreciate it.




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