The Spiritual Meaning Of Holi

By: Subodini Menon

The festival of Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Therefore, Holi is a joyous festival that celebrates life and all of its colours. The festival of Holi is called by many names in the various parts of the country.

It's called 'Hori' and 'Dolyatra' in the north of India, 'Hutashani Mahotsav' and 'Holi dahan' in Goa. It is called 'Kamadahan' in South India. As the festival welcomes the spring season, it is also known as 'Vasantotsav' and 'Vasantagamanotasav'.

what is the spiritual meaning of holi

The festival of Holi is not just about the colours and has much more significance attached to it. Festivals in India almost always have a spiritual side to them.

Also Read: Stories related to why Holi is celebrated

Behind the many stories and legends that explain the reason of celebrating a festival, lies the spiritual side of it all. Holi is no exception to it. Stay with us as we explore the spiritual meaning of Holi.

what is the spiritual meaning of holi

The Story Of Prahlada
Prahalada was the son of the Demon King, Hiranyakashyapu. Hiranyakashyapu was someone who hated Lord Vishnu and couldn't even bear to hear his name uttered. He was so powerful that he forced the people under his rule to worship him instead of Lord Vishnu. It was in such circumstances that Prahlada was born.

Unlike his father, he was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu tried many ways to change his son, but it was of no avail. He even tried to kill Prahalada. Hiranyakashyapu had a sister by the name of Holika.

She had a boon that she can't be burned by fire. She took Prahalada in her lap and sat on a pyre which was set on fire. But the child Prahalada was so pious and his faith in Lord Vishnu was so strong that Holika started burning up. She burned into ashes and Prahalada wasn't even singed. Lord Vishnu later took the avatara of Lord Narasimha to save Prahalada and the world from the evil clutches of Hiranyakashyapu.

The festival of Holi is celebrated on the occasion of the destruction of Holika. It represents the victory of good over evil. It teaches us that if your faith is strong, no evil can harm you. Faith in the almighty will help you survive even the hardest of hardships.

what is the spiritual meaning of holi

The Story Of Kama Dahan
After the death of Sati Devi, Lord Shiva went into deep meditation. It was then that a demon Tarakasura started his menace on the world. He had received a boon from Lord Brahma that he can be killed only by the son of Lord Shiva. With Lord Shiva in deep meditation, there was no one to save the world from Tarakasura.

The devas decided to wake Lord Shiva from his meditation. They sent Kama Dev, the God of Love and Lust to wake him up. Kama Dev aimed his arrow at Lord Shiva. The arrow broke the intense meditative state of Lord Shiva; but he was furious. He opened his third eye and the intense stare burnt Kama Dev to ashes.

This incident is one of the reasons why Holi is celebrated today. Spiritually, the opening of Lord Shiva's third eye represents the awakening of knowledge and wisdom. And the burning of Kama Dev represents the destruction of lust.

Therefore, the festival of Holi, in its purest form, urges us to rise above the evils of life like lust with the help of piety and wisdom. It teaches us how to celebrate life without falling prey to evils like lust.

what is the spiritual meaning of holi

Story Of Lord Krishna And The Gopis
Another legend associated with Holi talks about how Lord Krishna played with colours and teased the Gopis. It is said that during Holi, Lord Krishna as a child would visit Barsana with his friends. He would tease and play with Radha and the other women. The womenfolk would then hit Lord Krishna and his friends with sticks to chase them away in a sportive gesture. This is still re-enacted in the town of Barsana during the festival of Holi.

At the first glance, this legend seems to be light-hearted play without much spiritual significance, but that is not the case. The 'Lathmar Holi' shows that everybody is equal in the eyes of the almighty. There can be no distinctions of male-female or the rich or poor when one sets out to play Holi. The society comes together as one and celebrates this festival of colours. It teaches us not to discriminate and to consider everyone as equal.

Read more about: holi, significance
Story first published: Monday, March 13, 2017, 11:16 [IST]
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