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Holi – The Indian Festival of Colors

Holi, or Phagwah as called in Bhojpuri or Doljatra in Bengali, is the Hindu festival of colors that takes place every year in the spring, in the later half of February or early March. It falls on the day of the Phalgun Purnima – the day of the Full Moon, lso called Basant Panchami.

The festival lasts for two days. On the first day, a bonfire is lit in the evening that signifies the burning of the Holika. The second day is the day to indulge in merriment, throwing colored powder called “abir” or “phag” or colored waters from syringes at each other.at the end of the festivities, thirst is traditionally quenched by drinking the “thandai”, laced with small quantities of “bhang” or marijuana.

Mythologically, Holi commemorates the day when Bhakt Prahlad, the devotee of lord Vishnu, sitting on the lap of the female demon named Holika, was saved by the Lord from being burnt in a fire while Holika got killed instead. Another theory is that the festival marks the death of Pootna - the demon who nearly killed Lord Krishna. The effigy of Pootna is therefore burnt the night before. Pootna symbolizes winter and darkness – and the burning indicates the end of drudgery. Others relate the festival with the worship of Kaama, God of gratification.

This festival takes place at the commencement of spring, when the change of weather brings with it the germs of diseases like viral fever and cold, along with chicken pox. The medicinal implication behind the playful throwing of colored powders, which in the ancient times were made with Ayurvedic herbs like Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and so on, helped in the prevention of those diseases.

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