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» Informational Articles » Festivals » Holi Festival: Holika Dahan is on 9th March 2020

All About Holi Festival, Significance, Date, Importance of Rituals

Holi Festival of ColorsHoli (Holika Dahan on 9th March Monday, Dhulandi on 10th Tuesday) the festival of colors is the spring festival celebrated across the country to welcome the full moon day in spring or Falgun (February-March). Holi celebrations go on for two days. On day one, it is "Holika Dahan" (Holika bonfire) or Chhoti Holi and the second day is Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Dhulivandan where people play with colors and share festive recipes. The Holi festival symbolizes the conquest of the auspicious over inauspicious and good over evil. It is also a day to celebrate with your loved ones and family. Holi is regarded as a spring festival of India that welcomes spring after seeing off the season of winter.

During this festival, families meet their near and dear ones, bury the hatches and get into the festive mood. For the farming community, it is as good as a Thanksgiving Day because they thank God and pray for a good harvest. In spite of being Indian origin, this festival has significantly become widespread in many parts of South Asia, Europe and North America.On the first evening of Holi, people celebrate chhoti holi wherein they burn the effigy of Holika, the evil sister of King Hiranyakashipu who schemed through her to kill his own son Prahlad, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. The next day is all about colors. People celebrate it as Dhuleti aka ‘Dhulandi’, ‘Rangwali Holi’ or ‘Phagwah’ wherein they smear each other with colors and water.

Holi festival History, Mention in Scriptures, Legends/Stories behind Holi

The Puranas, the Sanskrit
prose Dashakumaracharita,
and the poet Kalidasa
during the 4th century
reign of Chandragupta II
glorify the divine
spirit of Holi festival.

History of HoliHoli is not limited to the borders of India but it is celebrated across the globe. Many parts of South Asia, Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname, Malaysia, Tobago, the United Kingdom, many countries of South Africa, Canada, Mauritius, the United Sates and Fiji witness its celebration by the Indian diaspora settled there. As a result, even the locals of those regions join with their festive mood.Gaining celebrative acceptance on a larger scale in the world, the festival has its history rooted in ancient India. Ancient scriptures such as the Puranas, the Sanskrit prose Dashakumaracharita, and the poet Kalidasa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II glorify the divine spirit of Holi festival. Even the Sanskrit drama Ratnavali (7th century) mentions the celebration of Holi.

Bhagavad Purana:

The Seventh Canto of Bhagavad Purana or Shrimad Bhagavatam mentions an ancient legend that explains the symbolic celebration of Holi. There it is mentioned that the earth was once ruled by the demonic king Hiranyakashipu who always envied Lord Vishnu (in His Varaha avatar) for killing his brother, Hiranyaksha. Holika Dahan Timing and Story of HolikaWhen the king went into the forest for performing the severest tapasya (penance) to please Lord Brahma, his kingdom was attacked by the gods under Lord Indra’s leadership. Sage Narada condemning that the king’s pregnant wife is sinless therefore must not be attacked took her to his kutir (Ashram) where he enlightened her on devotion to Lord Vishnu (Bhakti Yoga). Her unborn child Prahlada greatly influenced by those transcendental instructions grew up being a great devotee of Lord Vishnu.

To kill his own son Prahlad,
King Hiranyakashipu appointed
his sister Holika whose attempt
resulted in her own death.
The night today is celebrated
as Holika Dahan.

Soon the king Hiranyakashipu found out that his son is devoted to his enemy (Lord Vishnu) and tried explaining to him why he (Prahlad) must give up his useless devotion to Vishnu. When unsuccessful, the king schemed to get his son killed in a various way; like poisoning, getting him trampled under giant elephants and locking him away in a chamber with venomous reptiles like snakes and pythons.

Seeing his son survive these horrendous treatments, the king at last asked his sister Holika to burn Prahalad. She wore her enigmatic cloak and tricked the boy into getting in her lap while she sat on a pyre. She knew the cloak would protect her from the fire. But on this occasion, Agni, the Fire god who is a devotee of Lord Vishnu blew away her cloak while Vishnu tattvas (cosmic elements of cold and goodness) protected the boy Prahlad, who was constantly praying to Lord Vishnu. Holika died at the hands of the Lord, who later incarnated as Narasimha (Half lion and half superhuman) and killed the cruel king Hiranyakashipu as well.

Hence on Holi, people offer prayers to Lord Vishnu who incarnated as Narasimha to rid the world of cruelty and injustice. Devotees chant the Vishnu Sahasranama one of the most sacred strotras in Hinduism to worship the Lord.

Legend of Holi associated with Lord Krishna:

Radha Krishna Holi Story Holi festival is also associated with the pastimes of Lord Krishna with His divine friend and devotee Srimati Radharani. The events are said to take place in the Braj region of India, where Krishna and Radha grew up. There people celebrate the festival until Rangpanchmi. The central figure of their celebration is the divine relationship between Radha and Lord Krishna.

The merriments formally welcome spring wherein peole celebrate the Holi festival as the symbol of divine, pure love of the Lord and His topmost devotees such Radha and Her friends.

It was Krishna
and His close friend
Srimati Radharani who
started the celebration
of Dhuleti or Dhulandi
about 5ooo years ago
in the Braj region
of Mathura, India.

A legend has that Lord Krishna during His childhood pastimes once had breast milk of Putana who wanted to kill the Lord with her breast milk which was poisoned. This milk turned His skin dark blue. When the Lord further grew to enjoy His youth pastimes, He began to worry about His dark blue appearance. He constantly spent days thinking whether Radha, cowherd girls and boys would like Him in His dark blue color. His mother Yashoda worried about His stress asked Him to color Her face with the color of His choice. When the Lord colored the face of Radha, She also reciprocated, do did the other cowherd people. And these activities led to the emergence of colourful festival today known as Holi.

Today Mathura, in the Braj region, which is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, sees the festival celebrated at a grand scale. People in Vrindavan celebrate Holi by performing a special puja that the traditional custom of worshipping the Lord. It is this place wherein the festival goes on for the sixteen days for sixteen days. Even the in the places like Hathras, Aligarh, and Agra, people celebrate Holi festival in more the way it is celebrated in Mathura, Vrindavan and Barsana.

Story of Lord Kamadeva and his wife Rati

Vasant Panchami Story

In the Shakti sect, the celebration of Holi is mentioned in relation to Lord Shiva, Lord Kamadeva and Rati. Once, Lord Shiva was in the deeper state of meditation. Seeking His association and intimate touch, Goddess Parvati asked Kamadeva, the god of love (Cupid) to invoke the mode of passion (Rajo guna) in Him. Following Her order, the god of love shot an arrow at Shiva who was awakened and as a result, He immediately burned him to ashes. Saddened by the event, Kamadeva’s grieving wife Rati performed a severe meditation in order to pacify Lord Shiva for a period of forty days.

Pleased with her tapasya, Lord Shiva feels compassionate and brings Kamadeva back to life. This event featuring Kamadeva’s return to life is celebrated on the fortieth day after Vasant Panchami is celebrated as Holi.


A night-day Holi festival begins on the evening of Purnima (Full Moon day) between the end of February and the middle of March. It begins at night with Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi (burning of Holika or Mini Holi) and ends with the actual celebration of Holi aka Dhuleti, Dhulandi or Phagwah in the following day.

In short, Holika Dahan is celebrated the night before the actual celebration of Holi. Choosing the right time (auspicious Muhurata) for Holika Dahan is important as this is the time to burn all bad karmas by praying deeply at the bonfire. Holika Dahan Muhurata is on 20th March as follows:

Particular Date & Day Time starts Time ends
Purnima Tithi March 9, Mon 11:51 AM  
Purnima Tithi March 9, Mon   11:17 PM
Holika Dahan Muhurat March 9, Mon 6:47 PM 9:11 PM
Bhadra Punchha March 9, Mon 9:37 AM 10:38 AM
Bhadra Punchha March 9, Mon 10:38 AM 12:19 PM

Muhurat of Dahan is determined on the basis of Purnima and Bhadra. Holika Dhahan is never to be done during Bhadra but during Pradosha while Purnima tithi prevails. Ideally, this should be done after Bhadra is over. This year, the Bhadra times are from 9:37 AM to 10:38 AM and Bhadra Mukha is from 10:38 AM to 12:19 PM. Performing Dahan during Bhadra leads to bad luck and sufferings.

SIGNIFICANCE OF HOLI: What To Do On Holi, How To Do Holi Puja, Holi Special Puja

The central part of this festival is burning all the impurities that infest our mind. Holika who attempted to kill Prahlad represents the inferior material desires (matter) and Prahlad represents our true nature, bhakti (spirit) or devotion to the Lord. Matter cannot cover spirit for the spirit is the eternal consciousness of every living entity. That’s why Holika trying to burn Prahlad got burnt herself.

It is a highly auspicious day for performing a Holi puja and Katha. On this day, reading or hearing the legends of Holi from qualified Brahmins or priests is equally auspicious. One can also recite these legends as it is as good as serving the Lord itself.

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Holika Dahan:

Holika Dahan

Performance of Holika Dahan signifies the defeat and burning up of the evil or inauspicious elements. The night before Dhuleti is the time for lighting up the bonfire, which is a warning to all negative elements in the cosmic atmosphere. People perform Holika Dahan in these ways:

  • Collecting wood and other combustible materials to set up the heap of those materials for lighting the bonfire. Bonfires can be lit at public places or open spaces or even near temples.
  • Installing the effigies of Holika keeping Prahlada in her lap on top of the heap. (the effigy of Holika is made of combustible materials whereas that of Prahlada is non-combustible)

Then, those materials are set to fire on the night of Phalgun Purnima and various prayers are offered to Agni (Fire). People chant rakshoghna mantras from the Rig Veda while walking around the bonfire and offer coconut. These half-burnt coconuts are then taken as Prasadam (holy offering).

Dhuleti: Why we throw colour on each other?


On the next day, people play Dhuletii, a colourful Holi with waters with pichkaris (water guns) and balloons filled with water. Colored water is sprinkled on others in festive spirit. "Dhuleti" means throwing of mud, "Dhul" means sand, "mud" and "eti" means the practice of performing an activity. Hence, it means throwing colorful sand over each other.

In conclusion:

  • Holi festival starts at night when people engage in the Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) to perform rituals in front of the bonfire. Families gathered there pray to the Divine to burn down their six sins; anger, greed, lust, desire, pride and envy just like Holika, the sister of king Hiranyakashipu was burnt down.
  • Following the night of Holika, next day starts with celebration of the actual Holi aka Rangwali Holi. This is the most exciting part as children, adults even the old-aged play with water, colors, splashing the same on one another. Children use water guns and throw water-filled balloons at each other or even at the strangers.
  • The festive celebration sees no language barrier, castes, religion or any other social or communal background. Anyone be them be rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders can join with their hands and play to the heart's content. Celebrations take place in public in the streets, public parks, near the temples and housing societies with music, dance, and delicious food.
  • It is the best festival to visit your and dear ones, forget the past bitter experience and reunite in a harmonious spirit. It is the time to taste traditional drinks such as bhang (marijuana), which is little mood making and mind-altering. After this day-long celebration, people visit their close ones in the evening and share dinner.
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