Holi and Nowruz


People celebrating Holi

John Wesesky, Writer

There are thousands of holidays and celebrations that are celebrated all around the world. Some are in specific regions, belong to specific religions, or are only celebrated in certain countries. The list goes on and on. There are still holidays and celebrations being made to this day. Yet, there are still big celebrations that some have never heard of, two of them possibly being Holi or Nowruz.

Holi is a festival that is celebrated in India that has been in existence for thousands of years and marks the beginning of spring. It is celebrated on the last full moon day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month. It is usually in March, but it starts earlier in West Bengal and Odisha. In Northern Uttar Pradesh, the festivities last over a week. The origins of this festival go back to the Hindu legend of Holika. Holika was a female demon and the sister of the demon King Hiranyakashyap. The legend goes that Hiranyakashyap thought he was the supreme overlord of everything and everyone. This meant that when Prahlad, his son, put his faith in and followed Vishnu, Hiranyakashyap became furious and wanted to kill his son. He ordered his son to sit on Holika’s lap as they went into a bonfire. He knew that Holika had special garments that protected her from fire, but by having the boy sit in her lap, the garments wrapped around Prahlad and Holika burned to death. Then in the aftermath, Vishnu came to Hiranyakashyap and killed him. To celebrate her cremation, on the day before Holi, called Holika Dahan, people of India make bonfires and burn them. The day afterwards is called Holi, which is most commonly associated with throwing colors and water. The actual holiday was first brought up in a 4th century poem and then again in a 7th century Sanskrit play called “Ratnavali” written by then Indian Emperor Harsha. It was said that the tradition of throwing colors on each other comes from the story of Radha and Krishna. Krishna, the dark-complexioned god, had complained to his mom that Radha had very poor skin. His mom responded by telling him to paint his face so that it looks good. That’s what he did and now people throw colored powder during Holi. There are also some rules with Holi. For example, children should throw water onto elders and women should splash the men with color. However, people are having too much fun and forget all the rules. When asked about it, sophomore Daevan Mangalmurti said that he usually spends the holiday solely by telling his grandmother, “Happy Holi”, but he has thrown colors a few times in his life.

The other holiday is called Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year. It has roots in Zoroastrianism, a very old religion dating back to the 6th century B.C. It is not only for people of this religion; it is inclusive of everyone. It occurs during the vernal equinox, during March. The people who celebrate this holiday are Iranians, Indians, Turks, and Afghans. The main tradition is Haft Seen. This is when a table is set up with 7 different items that start with the Persian letter “S”. One woman described the way she set up her table. She talked about how she set up family heirlooms, made the table nice with a satin sheet, and put a mirror on it. Then she went into detail about the food she put out, and there was a lot. There was samanu (a sweet paste), garlic, lentil, sprouts, apples, dishes of vinegar, and sumac. All of these, when spelled in Persian, begin with an “S”. She also put out some eggs, coins, hyacinth, a bowl of fish, and Iranian poetry books. Then to add even more food, she had traditional Persian stews like khoresht, karafs, and gheymeh. This beats some of the older customs like jumping over fire, hitting each other with scallions, and bastani.

The research for this project relates to being an inquirer and being open-minded. It relates to being an inquirer due to learning about new customs and how they became to be. The research included learning the origins of Holi and all of the dishes on Nowruz. It also relates to being open-minded. This is due to being accepting of these customs and different religious beliefs and not discriminating and writing hateful sentences about them.