We asked around and discovered that most people are mighty confused about Holi.
We asked around and discovered that most people are mighty confused about Holi. "It's a long weekend, bro" was the most popular response, followed swiftly by wild anecdotes of (literally) egging friends, dousing each other with colours that'll stain your skin for weeks, and getting loopy on bhaang. But how did all of this come to be? Are we even doing this ancient Hindu festival right? Let's see.
The word 'Holi' comes from 'Holika', the evil sister of this one batshitcrazy king of demons, Hiranyakashyap. Legend has it that this guy was badass and thought no end of himself because of this one boon he had earned that basically made him invincible. Neither man nor animal nor weapons could kill him, and he couldn't be touched indoors or outdoors, during the day or at night. That's exactly the sort of shit that'll go to your head and make you do things like insist everyone worship you. Which is what he did.
Except this guy's own son, Prahlad, was mad-rebellious. He not only disagreed, but also much preferred - by which we mean really, really fancied - Vishnu, considered the greatest lord of all times. (He’s so amaze that Ram and Krishna and other mythological gods are actually all his avatars.)
Prahlad was always all like Vishnu is the best. Which drove Dad Hiranyakashyap straight to crazy town, and he tried killing his own son because therapy and anger management wasn't a thing yet. But Vishnu was always there to save Prahlad.
Not like Hiranyakashyap was the kinda guy who'd back down. When torturing Prahlad in different ways didn't work, he called upon his equally evil sister, Holika. She had earned a boon of her own (how are these guys even... how do we apply?) in the form of a coat that would always protect her from a fire. The plan was to trick her nephew, Prahlad into sitting in her lap while she sat smack in the middle of a raging fire.
What happened next is going to blow your mind: the cloak mysteriously flew off Holika and covered/protected Prahlad instead, setting Holika on fire, and letting Prahlad walk out like a boss. And for those having a slow morning, by "mysteriously", we mean "Hi Vishnu!"
So you know that bonfire that's lit the night before Holi in most parts of the country? Yup. That symbolises this dramatic triumph of good over evil.
But wait, we're not done yet. And neither was Vishnu, who meanwhile took on the avatar of Lord Narasimha -- half human, half lion -- and cornered Hiranyakashyap at his doorstep (neither indoors nor outdoors) at dusk (neither day nor night) and killed him with his claws (not weapons). Double victory! Final score? Good: 2, Evil: 0.
As for the colours and stuff, it's all part of the celebration of good over evil. Though why people stopped playing with flowers and organic colours (made of things like neem and kumkum and chandan), and turned Holi into the sort of wild and frenzied festival it is today -- one that stresses out the environment, animals, and Chris Martin fans alike -- we'll never really know. Maybe it's the bhaang.
MTV wishes you all a very happy and colourful Holi. Be cool, be safe.