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Holi, the festival of colour, falls in the month of Phalgun.

It marks the end of the year according to the Indian calendar, and the spirit of festivity is alive in every Hindu household.

Holi symbolises the abolition of evil and the victory of good. There are several myths about the origin of the festival.

As one story goes, Putna, the evil demon, was instructed to kill the baby Krishna by Kansa. She was outsmarted by Krishna who killed her instead. Villagers witnessing the incident burnt Putna in the Holi fire, thus symbolising the death of evil.

The other myth about the origin of the festival is about King Hiranyakashyapu, a demon, who failed in coercing his son, Prahlad (a devotee of Vishnu), to worship him, instead of Vishnu. The king decided to burn his son alive. His sister Dunda had a boon that she could not be burnt in fire so the king asked Dunda to hold Prahlad over the pyre to kill him. But as good always triumphs over evil, Dunda was burnt alive. Prahlad was unhurt.

Over the generations, Holi is celebrated on the night of Phalgun Purnima or the full moon by burning a pyre around which the sacred thread symbolising good is tied. Even today when the pyre is burnt to ashes, the thread retains its form symbolising good. A puja is observed, and offerings of coconut, milk, sweets like puran poli are put into the sacred fire.

The following day -- Dhuli Vandan or the second day of Holi -- is marked as the beginning of a new era and celebrated with much fanfare. Everyone runs wild in a carnival atmosphere, splashing each other with brightly coloured dyes.

Tarla Dalal

Rang De basanti: Holi special on rediff Mobile

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