The festival is synonymous with boisterous pranks, merrymaking and a riot of colours – either as powder or water along with the notorious 'pichkaari'. Dyed water is shot or thrown from buckets or in the form of water balloons. There are various versions about why Holi is celebrated.
Holi celebrates the arrival of spring, which is a season of hope and joy. The celebration of Holi is intertwined with the story of Holika.
As the story goes, Hiranyakashyap, the demon king wanted to take his son, Prahlad's life with the help of his sister, Holika. However, Prahlad survived unscathed while Holika was burnt live. Since that day onwards, the day is celebrated in victory of good over evil.
Another version says that Lord Krishna often teased the Gopis with water and dry colours. According to yet another legend, infant Krishna killed the demonic 'Putna' on the same day and Rasleela was celebrated by gopiyas in memory of this miracle.
Another story says that Krishna was jealous of Radha's fair complexion as he was dark-skinned. He confided about it to his mother Yashoda, who teasingly asked him to colour Radha's face using any colour he liked and see the change in the complexion.
Today, Holi is played with great enthusiasm in the two Northern cities of India, Vrindavan and Mathura that is associated with Lord Krishna.
What is wonderful about the festival of Holi is that it is impossible to distinguish who is rich and poor once covered in colour. Every barrier among people, be it young or old are broken down by the colourful colours of Holi.
In the olden days, 'gulal' colours were made at home using flowers of 'Palash' known as the 'Flame of the Forest'. Once the flowers were plucked, they were sundried and then ground to fine dust. The powdered dust would turn into a brilliant hue of saffron-red on being mixed in water. These saffron-red pigments along with the coloured powdered talc known as ‘aabir’ were the main colours used for Holi.
These days, the festival of Holi has taken on a new form with people painting the town red, yellow, green, purple, pink, orange and every colour one can possibly think of!