Learning about and celebrating Holi

On Monday 29th  March 2021 Hope High Pupils learnt about and celebrated the festival of Holi.

Holi is a popular ancient Indian festival, also known as the "Festival of Love", the "Festival of Colours" and the "Festival of Spring". The festival celebrates the eternal and divine love of Radha Krishna.


It’s a two-day Hindu festival that originates in India. On the first day, people will gather around a bonfire and celebrate good triumphing over evil. But it’s the second day that most people will recognise - that’s when perfumed powder called gulal is pelted at everyone and made to stick with water pistols and balloons.

There are lots of Hindu legends that are believed to contribute to the meaning of the festival, but there are two in particular that are thought to be the most popular - each one celebrated over the two day period.


Holika and Hiranyakashipu

On the first evening of Holi, rituals and celebrations take place around a bonfire. The legend that some believe inspires this tradition centres around two demon siblings, Holika and Hiranyakashipu.

Hiranyakashipu was a demon King and had been granted immortality. His vast power led him to believe he was a God and he forced his subjects to worship him. If they did not, they were brutally punished or killed.

Despite this, Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahlad continued to worship the Hindu god Vishnu instead of his father. The demon King, not wanting to give his son special treatment, concocted a plan to kill his son.


Hiranyakashipu roped his sister Holika into the plan. She had a special cloak that protected her from fire, so she took Prahlad into a bonfire under the cloak, with the intention of taking it away, and therefore killing him, once inside. However, the cloak flew off Holika and covered Prahlad instead, protecting him and killing her.

Meanwhile, Vishnu had seen all of this and decided it was time to get rid of the evil Hiranyakashipu once and for all. The Holi festival is thought to take its name from the demon sister Holika. It’s also why the first evening of the festival takes place around a bonfire - it is a celebration of good over evil, light over darkness.

The legend of Krishna

The Hindu god Krishna was quite mischievous. He complained to his mother Yashoda that he didn’t like his dark blue skin and wanted to be fairer, like the love of his life Radha.

Yashoda, who adored her son, suggested he paint Radha’s face any colour he wanted, to make him feel better. So that’s exactly what Krishna did. Krishna and Radha were still madly in love after he did this.

Some people believe this is why, during Holi, everyone pelts each other with the perfumed gulal powder. It could also be why one of the names of Holi is the ‘festival of love’, as it is in part celebrating the love between Krishna and Radha.


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