Rang Leela of Krishna and Radha: Holi, the Festival of Colors

Holi, the festival of colors, the harbinger of spring, is the season of Prakriti’s adolescence, with the touch of Purush’s divine love, the blooming of flowers, the loveable songs of birds, and the freshness of the greens. It is the time that brings optimism, brimming joy, and divine illumination to life. The world celebrates Holi with enthusiasm, especially Bharat as the mischievous boy who was always surrounded by beautiful damsels, and Radha, his divine consort, lived in Braj Bhoomi—Mathura, Vrindavan, and Barsana—and made India a hub of transcendental love. Unfortunately, most 21st-century people don’t know how Holi, the festival of colors, came into existence. Today, we at Vedic Story are going to unearth the origin, significance, and legends of Holi. 

Legends of Holi: Prahlad and Holika Dehan

According to Indian mythology, Holi, the festival of colors, has an ancient mythical connection. Once, as per Vishnu Purana, there was a demon called Hiranyakashipu who was a twin son of Sage Kashyap. penance for years to get a boon of immortality from Lord Brahma. 

With time, he grew so powerful and started to trouble people on Earth and Pataal. He demanded that the subject worship him instead of the deities. 

Prahlad, the greatest devotee of Lord Vishnu, was the son of demon king Hiranyakashipu. 

The cruel king tried to kill his son several times in several ways but failed. 

At last, he decided to set up a pyre for him and requested that his sister sit with Prahlad on her lap. Holika, the demon sister of Hiranyakashipu, was blessed with a boon so that she would never be killed by fire. 

Prahlad, on the other hand, happily agreed to sit on fire with Holika and began chanting to Lord Vishnu. 

He was saved, but Holika was burned alive to death. Thereafter, before the Holi festival, Holika dehan is performed to end evil.

Legends of Lord Shiva and Sati

Hindu mythology, especially the Shiva Purana, narrates the story of Lord Shiva and Sati, the daughter of Daksha. He was against the marriage of Shiva and Sati. However, their wedlock happened against the will of King Daksha. He turned so arrogant and declared his daughter, Sati, was dead for him. 

After some time, Daksha arranged a yagna to insult Lord Shiva and Sati. He invited all the deities except Lor, Shiva, and Sati. 

On the other hand, when Sati learned about it, she thought a daughter must not wait for any invitation and visited her father’s palace. 

Soon after, she came to realize that the Yagna was just a plot to insult her husband, Lord Shiva, and immolate herself with her own energy. 

Lord Shiva went to the place of his consort, where she died, brought her dead body, and wandered the whole universe in pain and sorrow. 

Lord Vishnu chopped Sati’s body into 52 pieces to pacify Mahadev. He established Shakto Peetha on the same spot where Sati’s chopped body fell and left his Rudras, the anger forms of Shiva, to safeguard her. 

Mahadev renounced his worldly duties and went into Samadhi, or deep meditation. 

The balance of the world and its actions began to crumble in Shiva’s absence. 

Legends of Lord Shiva and Parvati

Sati witnessed all and decided to rebirth as Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas and Menavati. She began her penance to melt the heart of her husband, Mahadev, and wake him up from his renunciation. 

Parvati failed miserably in her quest. With the help of Kamdev, the Lord of Love, and Rati, the goddess of love acts and pleasure, she was able to sow a seed of love in Lord Shiva’s heart.

Sandalwood Paste Custom on Holi, the Festival of Colors, to Subdue Kamdev 

However, through the acts of Kamdev and Rati, Lord Shiva got disturbed and filled with anger. He opened his third eye and reduced Kamdev and his assistants to ashes. It is believed that Kamdev, the Lord of Love, sacrificed himself to establish and maintain the cycle of love and birth on earth for the good of all beings. 

After some time, Mahadev realized that, in his anger, he disbalanced the work of Purush and Prakriti. He granted Kamdev immortality with Rati in invisible form so that the world never lost the charm of love, attraction, and the beauty of youthfulness.

This amazing legend of Kamdev and Mahadev originated the custom of offering sandalwood paste to Kamdev on Holi, the festival of colors, to relieve the stinging burns. 

Legends of King Prithu and Ogree Dhundhi

Indian mythology has an unbelievably charming Vedic story, and one such tale comes from the Vishnu Purana. King Prithu, one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu, defeated the ogress Dhundhi. She was blessed with a boon from Lord Shiva that she would not be killed by any means—gods, men, heat, cold, rain, and other things. 

With the boon, Dhundhi became invincible and began to eat innocent children in the kingdom of Prithu. However, she had a weak point due to the curse by Mahadev and must stay away from crazy boys and pranksters. 

Dhundhi was chased away by children and pranksters on Holi. Therefore, rowdy behavior is accepted in Holi, the festival of colors in India. 

Legends of the Orgee Midwife and Infant Krishna

While Krishna was an infant and lived happily with his parents in Madhura, one day a beautiful damsel in the form of a midwife came to the palace of Nand Maharaj and Yashoda. She instructed Krishna to feed her breastmilk to baby Krishna. Yashoda agreed and handed over the naughty Kanha. She began to feel her milk in a room and suddenly started to cry in pain. Baby Krishna was sucking her milk happily. 

She tried to escape the place by throwing the infant Kanha, but she could not make him leave her milk and turned into an ugly, huge orgee. At last, baby Krishna killed her by sucking all her poison. Krishna from that day turned blue from his black complexion. 

Rang Leela of Radha and Krishna: The Story of Transcendental Love and Playful Holi

Krishna, the young, slender, graceful, black-limbed, playful, and extremely mischievous son of Yasoda and Nand Maharaj, was famous in Vrindavan. Mohana, Makhanchor, Chitchor, and our Yashoda’s Kanha were extremely jealous of Radha’s milky-white aura due to the dark complexion he has. 

One day in Vrindavan, Krishna was so unhappy that he went to his mother, crying and complaining. “Why is Prakriti so unfair to me, mother? She made Radha breathtakingly beautiful and milky-white, and me so dark and ugly. 

To pacify the crying, curly-haired Krishna and the apple of Yashoda’s eye, she asked him to go and color Radha’s face with the color he pleases.

Mischievous Krishna liked the idea of his mother so dearly and planned to color Radha with his friends. Naughty Kanha heeded Yasoda’s advice, colored Radha’s face, and made her just like himself. 

The colorful and loveable prank of Krishna smearing Radha’s face with different hues impressed the people of Vrindavan, Madhura, Barsana, and Nandgaon. They accepted the festival of Holi. The friends of Radha, Vishakha, and Lalita started to throw water using water jets, or pichkari, and from that day on, Holi is played in full-fledged. 

Different Holis in Braj

  • Lathmar Holi in Nandgaon and Barsana

Smearing Radha’s face with colors was a great idea suggested by Yashoda to jealous Kanha, and he accepted it wholeheartedly. In the quest of smearing colors on Radha and other gopis, Radha runs behind with a stick to beat Krishna, for his mischievousness is celebrated in Braj Bhoomi. Brajvasi enjoyed it a lot and celebrated it every year. 

Krishna would run from Nandgaon, his village, to Barsana, Radha’s village, and playfully smear colors on each other and beat him with sticks. This playful act of transcendental love, with time, came to be known as Lathmar Holi. Women dance with sticks, beat their partners, and apply color cheerfully. 

  • Flower Holi in Gulal Kund Vrindavan

Phoolon wali Holi is performed in Gulaal Kund, near Govardhan Hill and Vrindavan. Thereafter, Ras Leela is performed with colorful flowers.

  • Widow’s Holi at Vrindavan 

These are the most beautiful and different forms of Holi, the festival of color enjoyed by people in Braj. However, the widow’s Holi festival in Vrindavan is the most emotional celebration. They are forbidden to play with colors throughout the year, but on the day of Holi, they dress in white sarees, smear colorful power on other widows, and live that day happily. 

Holi at Banke Bihari Temple 

Banke Bihari Temple attracts tourists around the world to experience Holi. Lord Krishna and Radha are dressed in white, and the devotees smear them with gulaal, organic colors made of flowers and kesar. In return, the pandits of the temple pour devotees with colors too and chant prayers in the premise. 

Holi at Dauji Temple 

A few kilometers from Mathura, the first home of Krishna, Harunga festivities begin each year. Men in the Harunga festival pour color-tinged water on Holi, the festival of color, over women. Women, in return, tear their shirts and thrash.

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