When the full moon rises tonight, bonfires will be lit in every square and street in India, signaling the end of winter.
As the dead wood and odd scraps of old furniture and other household bits go up in flames, it will be time to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new.
Darkness will give way to light and the cold will be replaced by warmth. Everywhere you look you will find faces lit up with a sense joy and wellbeing.
Grains and coconuts will be offered to the Holi, the bonflre, as thanks for a plentiful harvest.
In some parts of India, especially in the North, this will be followed by singing into the night to the beating of the dhol.
And all little children will be told the story of a brave young boy who cheated death. When good once again triumphed over evil.
The Story of Holi
Once upon a time there lived an evil King Hiranyakashyap. He proclaimed he was the only God and that his people worship him alone and no one else. But there was one little boy Prahlad, the king’s own son, who refused to do so. Prahlad told his father that he would pray to no one but the Supreme Lord Vishnu.
Hiranyakashyap threatened and tortured Prahlad but nothing would shake Prahlad’s faith. So his father decided to kill him. However, every plot to kill the boy would fail as Vishnu would intervene.
Exasperated the King asked his sister Holika to kill Prahlad. Hollika had a boon. She could not be touched by fire. Knowing this Holika sat Prahlad on her lap and set fire to herself.
She had forgotten though, that the boon held true only if she entered the fire alone. So it was Holika who burnt to ashes and Prahlad escaped unscathed.
In Indian myths good always triumphs over evil but this story has another important moral. That which you use to destroy others will eventually destroy you.
Tomorrow morning we welcome Spring by painting the town red and green and blue and every other colour.
Happy Holi !!!