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What is Holi?     Holi – Click

Holi represents the Festival of colours.  It is celebrated on the full moon day, i.e., pournami in phalguna maasa every year.  It is popularly called as “Kaamana habba”. It is the day on which Mano niyamaka Rudra Devaru burnt Manmatha.

Once Kailasavasi Manoniyamaka Rudradevaru was deep in meditation, became indifferent to love and thus all procreation stopped. All the devataas in anxiety approached Kama (deity of love), who fired an arrow of love, at Shiva.   Shiva with his meditation disturbed opened his third eye on his forehead and struck down Kaama into ashes. Rati, Kaamas’s wife performed severe penance. Shiva promised her that Kaama would return to her and resume the spread of love and procreation.     He would however be formless or “ananga” to all but her.
Story of Holika – Holi festival is associated with the death of the demoness Holika, the sister of Hiranyakashipu.. The daithyaraaja Hiranyakashipu, with the support of the boons granted by Brahma, was very powerful and wanted to be worshipped as God. He ordered his people that Hiranyakashipu is the Supreme. People had to tell “Hiranyakashipuve namaha” instead of  Narayanaya namaha. But, his son Prahlaada, a staunch devotee of Srimannarayana refused to accept his father’s supremacy. Hiranyakashipu, could not tolerate that his own son Prahlada is not accepting hissupremacy. So he decided to kill Prahlada. After trying several attempts to kill Prahlada in vain, he sent his sister, Holika who possessed the boon of never being burnt by fire. Young Prahlaada was made to sit on his aunt’s lap. A bonfire was lit with Prahalada and Holika in the center.
To the disappointment of Hiranyakashipu, Holika was burnt to ashes, while Prahlaada was spared by the fire, by the grace of Vishnu. The bonfire lit and the burning of the effigy of Holika during Holi, symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, humility over haughtiness and power of prayer over physical strength.
Kama born as son of Krishna &burnt Vakrasura –  Once Krishna did the penance to Shiva for getting a child.  (This is only lokashikshanaartha.  Shiva Parvathi are blessed with the anugraha of Daampathya.  If one worships them, they would get good daampathya.  As such, to teach the people, Krishna  did the penance to Shiva).  During his penance, Vakrasura named asura tried to disturb.  Krishna immediately did the srushti of Manmatha, who killed that daithya.  Then Manmatha went back.  This shows that Krishna need not have done the tapassu to Shiva.  It is only lokashikshanartham.    Subsequently Krishna again got Manmatha (Pradyumna) through Rukmini devi.  As Kaama was once born as son of Krishna.    Further, one must note that Manmatha who was burnt alive by Shiva was not when he was born as the son of Krishna.  It was during his direct roopa as Manmatha.  Some stories have been misintepreted wherein they have told that Krishna putra Manmatha was burnt by Shiva.  Hence clarification.  

On the eve of Holi, huge bonfires are lit with logs of wood, dried cow dung cakes, ghee, honey and the new crops brought from the fields. Women prepare delicious sweets and put it in the bonfire as “Naivedya” (offering) to the “Agnidevata” the celestial deity, Fire. The ash from the extinguished fire is applied on the forehead by everyone. The ash is preserved at home all through the year and used as an effective remedy against impending evil.

Holi means to farmers, joyful celebration of the new harvest, bubbling with joy and excitement. At the prospect of prosperity, they offer their first crop to the Agni devata, who is looked upon with love and esteem.   After this only the crop is used for personal consumption. In ancient days, Holi was celebrated as “Vasantotsavam” acclaiming it as a spring festival.
Why colouring on holi day –  The legend from which the tradition of playing colours  –   The story or legend is based on Radha Krishna Story – Once Krishna who saw Radha to be more fair than Krishna got jealousness on her beauty.  As he was dark and Radha had beautiful colour – he complained to Yashoda.  To please her son, Yashoda told Krishna to apply some colour to the face of Radha, which would change the complexion of his choice.    Mischievous Krishna was happy with the idea and implemented it by applying various colours on the face of Radha.  It became a tradition and so popular that it turned out to be a festival of colours, which is being spread over all the parts of the country.    (Note :  This story is only what I have heard, but Radha-Krishna story is not fully accepted as per Madhwa philosophy.  Let us not discuss the issue. )
Sri Prasanna Venkatadasaru on Holi :
ಫಾಲ್ಘುಣ ಹುಣ್ಣಿಮೆ ಬಂದಿತಿಳೆಗೆ
ಬಾಲಕರೆಲ್ಲ ನೆರೆವುದೊಂದು ಘಳಿಗೆ
ಹೋಳಿಯನಾಡುವ ಸಂಭ್ರಮದೊಳಗೆ
ಕಾಳಗ ಬೇಡಿರೋ ನಿಮ್ಮ ನಮ್ಮೊಳಗೆ
Another story of Holi –  In Kruta Yuga, Raghu Maharaja was in ruling ably.  One daithye named Dunda, used to disturb the peace of the children in the city.  The people of the country pleaded before Raghu Maharaja, who went to Narada Maharshi for guidance.  Naradaru told him that daithye has boon and she can be killed by mischievous boys.   He guided that on Phalguna hunnime, the boys shall wonder throughout the city,  they shall collect wood, and other burnable items from various streets.  The huge collection shall be grouped with Rakshogna mantra.  They shall do 3 pradakshine to the Agni.  They shall scold with avaachya words, then she will go out.  That is why it is in practice that the people will collect wood from different streets, different homes and light the same.  During the day,  youngsters would roam all the streets, singing a song  in Kannada full of levity, which runs like this:
ಕಾಮನ ಕಟ್ಟಿಗೆ | ಭೀಮನ ಬೆರಣಿ | ಆಡಿಕೆ ಘೋಟು | ಎಕ್ಕಡದೇಟು | ಕಾಮನ ಮಕ್ಕಲು | ಕಳ್ಳ ಸೂಳೆ ಮಕ್ಕಲು  |
ಏನೇನು ಕದ್ದರು | ಸೌದೆ ಬೆರಣಿ ಕದ್ದರು | ಏತಕ್ಕೆ ಕದ್ದರು | ಕಾಮನ್ನ ಸುಡುಕ್ಕೆ ಕದ್ದರು
कामन कट्टिगॆ भीमन बॆरणि आडिकॆ घोटु,  ऎक्कडदेटु कामन मक्कलु कळ्ळ सूळॆ मक्कलु
एनेनु कद्दरु सौदॆ बॆरणि कद्दरु  एतक्कॆ कद्दरु कामन्न सुडुक्कॆ कद्दरु
காமந கட்டிகெ பீமந பெரணி ஆடிகெ கோடு,  எக்கடதேடு காமந மக்கலு கள்ள ஸூளெ மக்கலு
ஏநேநு கத்தரு ஸௌதெ பெரணி கத்தரு  ஏதக்கெ கத்தரு காமந்ந ஸுடுக்கெ கத்தரு
కామన కట్టిగె భీమన బెరణి ఆడికె ఘోటు,  ఎక్కడదేటు కామన మక్కలు కళ్ళ సూళె మక్కలు
ఏనేను కద్దరు సౌదె బెరణి కద్దరు ఏతక్కె కద్దరు కామన్న సుడుక్కె కద్దరు
kaamana kaTTige bheemana beraNi ADike GOTu,  ekkaDadETu kaamana makkalu kaLLa sooLe makkalu
EnEnu kaddaru soude beraNi kaddaru  Etakke kaddaru kaamanna suDukke kaddaru
meaning of the song –    Kaama’s wood piece, dried cow dung (beraNi) named Bheema, dried round areca nut, beating with slippers, the children of God of love (Kaamana makkaLu), Those thief bastard children (kaLLa sooLe makkaLu).   They stole  wood and cowdung (Soude-Berni), why they stole – for burning kaama.

Kaamadahana –    For our saadhane, there are many obstacles.  We must pray Manoniyamaka Rudradevaru to destroy all our dushkaamane (bad desires), and pray that Manoniyamaka shall guide us in the right path.    It is in practice that on this day, Holige, Ambode and other dishes are prepared and done the naivedya.

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