Holi, which falls on the full moon day, in the Hindu month of ‘Falgun’, is the last major festival of the year. People celebrate this festival with enthusiasm and without making any discrimination between rich and poor, high and low. It is very difficult to state, when this festival started, but the name of ‘holikotsav’ had been mentioned even in the Vedas and the Puranas. So ‘holikotsav’ has been celebrated since the Vedic period. During the ancient time, oblation was offered to the sacred fire of the Holi, amidst the chanting of the Vedic mantra.This mantra was chanted with the specific wish of destruction of the demon. On this very day Vaishwadev oblation commenced in which offerings of wheat, gram and Oat were made to the sacrificial fire. In Sanskrit language, the fried cereals are called ‘Holka’. Holikotsav is named after it. Even today we continue with the tradition of offering wheat and oat into the Holika fire. In due course of time, the form of this festival got transformed, due to numerous social influences and ultimately ended up in the form as we celebrate it today.
According to the Narad Puran, this day is celebrated in the memory of Prahlad’s victory and the defeat of his father’s-sister ‘Holika’. Hiranyakashipu – the father of Prahlad has instructed his sister Holika to sit in the burning fire with Prahlad in lap. She was blessed a boon, as a result of which no fire could burn her. But the opposite happened, Prahlad survived and Holika was charred to death. Thus ‘holi’ is celebrated to commemorate the victory of virtue over evil. There is also an another incident related with the celebration of ‘Holi’, which has been mentioned in the ‘Bhavishya Puran’. During the reign of king Raghu, people were tormented by a giant named ‘Dhundha’. Sage Vashishth advised them to terrorize her by burning fire at as many places as they could. Thus they got rid of the giant. Even today we see children making mischief on the day of ‘holikotsav. The mention of this festival in Jaimini Mimansa goes to prove its antiquity. A stone incription belonging to 300 BC found at Ramgarh in the province of Vindhya, had mentioned of Holikotsav on it. King Harsha has mentioned about holikotsav in his work Ratnavali that was written during the 7th century.
The famous Muslim tourist – Ulbaruni too has mentioned about holikotsav in his historical memories. Other Muslim writes of that period have mentioned, that holikotsav were not only celebrated by the Hindus but also by the Muslims. Thus we see that the tradition of celebrating holikotsav has been continuing since Vedic period without any hindrance. This festival unites all the Indian’s in a tremendous way. Holi is the festival of the colours. But very few people are aware of the impacts the colours have on our body and on our health. Western-Physicians and doctors believe that for a healthy body, colours too have an important place besides the other vital elements. Deficiency of a particular colour in our body causes ailment, which can be cured only after supplementing the body with that particular colour. On Holi, people after enjoying themselves with the colours, take bath and then go to meet their relatives and friends. Discrimination is not made even with the enemy. The concept of enemy does not exist on this day. There is no difference between rich and poor on this day. The concept of New Year (Samvatsar) varies in the different provinces of our country. In some provinces, the month commences from the ‘Krishna-Paksha’ on the other hand in some provinces it commences from ‘Shukla-Paksha’. For the former the year ends on ‘Purnima’ of the month of Phalgun. The new years begins next day – Chaitra, 1st day of the Krishna Paksha. For them on this day the last year has died. For this reason in some provinces like Bihar and UP. Holika dahan is also called ‘Samvatsar dahan? On this day all the bitterness and evil memories of the last year are burnt in the fire and the New Year is begun with a celebration.