Every spring, most parts of India have a celebration to mark the end of winter called Holi (pronounced the same as English "holy"). It normally lasts two days and while it is celebrated slightly differently, according to region, the main festival involves lighting bonfires, eating rich food, and coating other people in coloured powder and liquids. During this time, the normal societal strictness is relaxed, allowing people of all age, gender, status and caste to come together in a time of excitement and fun. This year, Holi will start on Wednesday, the 27th of March and will continue for 2 days until Thursday, the 28th.
The celebration is attributed mainly to a legend about a king of demons named Hiranyakashipu. The Demon King had been granted a boon (favor or blessing) by Brahma, making him almost impossible to kill. With this power, he became arrogant, attacking both the Heavens and the Earth, demanding that people stop worshipping the Gods and praise only him instead.
A rajah and his wife celebrating holi
However, his own son, Prahlad, disobeyed him, and continued his devotion and prayers to Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu, so he tried many times to kill his son for his insolence. Each attempt was foiled by Lord Vishnu. Finally, the Demon King turned to his Demoness sister, Holika. She had also been granted a boon which made it impossible for her to be burned by fire. Hiranyakashipu ordered Prahlad to sit on the lap of Holika while she sat on a burning pyre. Prahlad obeyed his father, but also prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect him from the fire. When the pyre was lit, it was Holika that burned instead, while Prahlad was unharmed. The boon only worked when Holika entered fire on her own. This miracle of Prahlad surviving while Holika burned is celebrated as Holi, being seen as a triumph of good over evil as well as devotion to god. Specifically, bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, which is called Holika Dahan (burning of Holika).
Another legend associated with Holi is the story of Dhundhi. She was an evil ogress who used to trouble the children of the kingdom of Prithu. She had a boon on her that made her almost invincible. However, she was also cursed by Lord Shiva, making her vulnerable to shouts and pranks by children, which eventually allowed the children she tormented to drive her away. For this reason, children play pranks during the time of Holika Dahan.
A third legend is one of love. Young Lord Krishna, who was dark of skin, was confused by how fair skinned his beloved Radha was, so his mother, Yashoda, told him to apply colour to her face. The mischievous young Krishna did just that, throwing coloured powder on her as well as others. This became a tradition among the young which eventually spread to everyone. This aspect of the celebration gives Holi the name Festival of Colours.
Some of the oldest depictions of Holi celebrations go back to the 16th century. A panel from that time in a temple in Hampi has a scene showing a prince and princess among maids who have large pichkaris (water pumps) full of water to soak the royal couple. A Mewar painting from around 1755 depicts the Maharana giving gifts to some people while a dance is happening. In the center of the scene is a tank full of coloured water.
The coloured powder of Holi is called called gulal. In the days before Holi, merchants put out many bowls of gulal and abeer (or aabir - small crystals that are added to the gulal to make it sparkle) in many bright colours in preparation for the celebration. These powders will also be mixed with water which can be sprayed on people using hand pumps called pichkaris or used to fill water balloons which will be thrown. In medieval times, these powders were made by drying tesu flowers, which were bright red or deep orange coloured, then grinding them to dust. Today, the colour added to the powder is chemical based.
The pichkaris, which have been used since the sixteenth century, constantly come out in new styles to attract children, and many of them even become collectibles. Traditional ones looked like large syringes, but now they can be almost anything, from modern squirt guns to toy figures and come in all different sizes.
Women also spend much of the time before the festival preparing various traditional foods, like gujiya (a sweet dumpling made with wheat flour and stuffed with khoya, a thick milk food), mathri (a kind of flaky biscuits), papri (crisp fried dough wafers), papads (thin, crisp crackers) and pakoras (fried snacks, like fritters). These are consumed along with large amounts of the intoxicating bhang, which is a preparation from the leaves and flowers cannabis plant, and thandai (a cold drink prepared with a mixture of almonds, fennel seeds, magaztari seeds).
|Celebrations - Holi|
All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.
|Letter From The Editor - Freaking Out|
|The Voynich Script - Cryptic Codex|
|Benjamin Whorf - Relativity of Language|
|At the Cinema - Lost in Translation|
|Languages in Peril - The Polish Connection|
|Word on the Streets - Romanian Poets|
|Where Are You?|
|Celebrations - Holi|
|A Language Dream|
|Revisited - Words From National Character|
|Language Learning Methods - Classes|
|Sections - Language Exchange|
Find previous issues in the archives.
Letter From The Editor - No Politics • Make Your Own Language Group • A History of Research in Study Abroad • Parrot Time on Patreon • Languages in Peril - Sayonara, Ainu • At the Cinema - La Coppia dei Campioni • Where Are You? • Book Look - The Bible of the Language Learners and Polyglots • Basic Guide to Romanian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Hope and Failing • Six Ways To Choose Which Languages To Learn • Learning Spanish - The trials, the tribulations and one triumphant learning hack • At the Cinema - The Last King (Birkebeinerne) • Celebrations - Birkebeinerrennet • Where Are You? • Book Look - Langenscheidt Dictionaries • Basic Guide to Swedish • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Culture and Language, Again • Learning A Language Is Learning Its Culture • Revisited - Early Bardic Literature in Ireland • Languages in Peril - Save Medan Hokkien! • In Others' Words - Ulrike and Peter Rettig • At the Cinema - Monster Hunt • Where Are You? • Book Look - Language Alter Ego • Basic Guide to Italian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - A Kind Word • Language and Power: The Hidden Struggle • 4 Ways To Learn Through Reading • Language Learning is for everyone! • Languages in Peril - The Decline of Sicilian • At the Cinema - The Host • Where Are You? • Book Look - Italian Short Stories for Beginners • Basic Guide to Hungarian • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Making it Happen • Motivation - Expressing oneself and the expression of oneself in language learning • Motivation Killers in Learning a Language • Mixing Languages and Relationships • In Others' Words - Brian Powers • At the Cinema - Cutting Room Floor • Languages in Peril - Cyprus' Language Revival Approach Problem • Where Are You? • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - The Importance of Travel • Broadening The Mind Travels The World • The Secret Life of Diacritics • There Are No Wrong And Right Gestures, Only Cultural Differences • Google Translate Exposed: - The Truth Behind Everyone's Favorite Translator • At the Cinema - Queen • Book Look - The A to Z of Learning German • Where Are You? • Basic Guide to Papiamentu • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Free Things • The Cost of Free Language Resources • Review of Polyglot Workshops: Brazil • Easier Way to Learn Languages Fast • Dream, decide, do - tips from a polyglot • At the Cinema - Cambio de Ruta • Languages in Peril - Talysh • Where Are You? • App Rev - Tandem • Book Look - Language Master Key • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Studying in Summer • Polyglot Events All Around The World - You Are Not Alone • Playing Games with Language • Spanish E-training – The 'Big Bang' Investment • Can a Language Die? • At the Cinema - La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos • Languages in Peril - Scottish Gaelic • Words in Your Mouth - Apple • Celebrations - Nag Panchami • Where Are You? • Book Look - Fluency Made Achievable: The Fluent Guide to Core Language Skills • At A Glance
Letter From The Editor - Sounds Like • How Do You Say It? - A look at sound notation systems • Of Pidgins and Creoles - A look at how some languages are born • Who Are You To Learn A Language? • At the Cinema - Dil Chahta Hai • Languages in Peril - Yumans on the Edge • Words in Your Mouth - Egg • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Breaking with Tradition • Are You Wasting Your Money on Language Classes? • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 2: Voice Chats • Why English Is Different Than Any Other Language • The Digital Language Collective • At the Cinema - Viva La Libertà • Languages in Peril - The Tribes of the Tamil-Kannada • Words in Your Mouth - Rice • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Thirteen • Chatting in Languages Online - Part 1: Text Chats • Why Do People Learn Languages? • The Question Of Practice - An International Language Is Possible • At the Cinema - Chinese Puzzle • Celebrations - Fastelavn • Words in Your Mouth - Cheese • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - Over Time • Which Language Is...? • The Ultimate Fate of Language Learning • 5 Funny Words In Afrikaans From My Perspective • At the Cinema - Everybody's Famous! • Word on the Streets - Why Writers are Important • Words in Your Mouth - Milk • Where Are You? • Book Look
Letter From The Editor - World Ambassadors • Coming Home to Faroese - The Why and How of Learning a Small Language • Danish and Faroese: A Biography • At the Cinema - Ludo • Basic Guide to Faroese • Celebrations - The Faroese Festival Summer • Revisted - The Faroe Islands • Word on the Streets - Famous Faroe Islanders • Where Are You? • The Grind: Why the Faroese Hunt Whales • The Legend of the Scottish Princess • Faroese Ballads - Nornagest Ríma and Ormurin Langi
Letter From The Editor - Expansion • Religion in Culture • Languages in Peril - Decline of the Gallo-Italics • Language Learning and Translation • Word on the Streets - Italian Greats • Book Look • At the Cinema - Xingu • Celebrations - Hangul Day • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Bread
Letter From The Editor - Tracing Words • Constructed Languages - Making It All Up • Language Conflicts - Flemish vs. Walloon • Rohonc Codex - Hungarian Enigma • At the Cinema - Il Comandante e la Cicogna - Garibaldi's Lovers • Where Are You? • Words in Your Mouth - Sausage • Book Look • GlobTech - Using Locale
Letter From The Editor - Globalization • Speaking with Aliens • Celebrations - Esala Perahera - The Festival of the Tooth • Language Conflicts - Bokmål vs. Nynorsk • At the Cinema - Pane e Tulipani - Bread and Tulips • Revisited - Words Which Have Changed Their Meaning • Languages in Peril - Keeping Up With The Kartvelians • Where Are You? • Sections - Reviews • Word on the Streets - Indonesian Innovators • GlobTech - Google Translate Section
Letter From The Editor - The Highlander Condition • When Languages Meet • At the Cinema - Mal Día Para Pescar - Bad Day to Go Fishing • Celebrations - Tanabata - The Star Festival • Languages in Peril - The Romanian Relatives • Revisited - Words Made By Great Writers • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Immersion • Sections - Links
Letter From The Editor - Price of Fame • Liber Linteus - Mummified Language • Pencak Silat • At the Cinema - Bombay • Celebrations - Inti Raymi - Festival of the Sun • Cracking the Code • Languages in Peril - The Chibchan Family • Revisited - Words From The Names Of Animals • Word on the Streets - Great German Authors • Where Are You? • Language Learning Methods - Internet • Sections - Neighborhood
Letter From The Editor - Why Polynesian? • Rongorongo - Island Chants • Otto Dempwolff - Islands of Language • At the Cinema - Whale Rider • Celebrations - Pasifika Festival • Special Feature - Avoiuli • Languages in Peril - The Island Invasion • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui's Home • Word on the Streets - Malay Masters • Where Are You? • Revisited - Legends of Maui - Maui Snaring the Sun
Letter From The Editor - Linguist or Polyglot • The Phaistos Disc - Puzzle of Crete • Otto Jespersen - Progress of Language • At the Cinema - Kukushka - The Cuckoo • Celebrations - Carnival • Languages in Peril - The Salish Tragedy • Word on the Streets - Kannada Writers • Where Are You? • Revisited - Stories In The Names Of Places • New Souls • Language Learning Methods - Software • Sections - Parleremo YouTube
Letter From The Editor - Freaking Out • The Voynich Script - Cryptic Codex • Benjamin Whorf - Relativity of Language • At the Cinema - Lost in Translation • Languages in Peril - The Polish Connection • Word on the Streets - Romanian Poets • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Holi • A Language Dream • Revisited - Words From National Character • Language Learning Methods - Classes • Sections - Language Exchange
Letter From The Editor - Truth in Advertising • Linear A & Linear B - Lost Minoan • Edward Sapir - Patterns of Language • At the Cinema - Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner • Word on the Streets - Norwegian Notables • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Valentine's Day • Languages in Peril - The Rhaeto-Romance Trio • Revisited - Proverbs • Linguistics Love Song • Language Learning Methods - Books • Sections - Recordings
Letter From The Editor - A New Parrot Time • The Rosetta Stone - Triple Cypher • Ferdinand de Saussure - Signs of Language • At the Cinema - L'auberge Espagnole • Languages in Peril - The Finno-Ugrics • Word on the Streets - The Russian Zone • Where Are You? • Celebrations - Day of the Dead • Revisited - Slang • We Are The Linguists • Language Learning Methods - Audio • Sections - Journals
Subscribe to Parrot Time!