Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the Hindu Spring Festival of Colors, Holi. Holi begins on March 6, 2015. The Doodle appears in Canada, India, England, Kenya, and South Africa, all of which have large Hindu populations. The Doodle shows the iconic “Google” logo and when clicked, it becomes covered in the colored powder that is thrown in Holi celebrations. Two eyes and a smiling mouth then appear and blink a few times.
Read on for 5 fast facts you need to know about the Holi Festival 2015.
1. Holi Begins on Friday, March 6, 2015
The date of Holi changes every year because, like the Chinese New Year on the Chinese lunar calendar, Hindus use a lunar calendar, too. The West uses a solar calendar called the Gregorian calendar. On the Gregorian calendar Holi typically comes in March but sometimes late February. The holiday occurs on the full moon before the spring (or vernal) equinox , which in 2015 falls on March 20.
Like many religious springtime holidays, Holi signifies the victory of good over evil, the end of winter, the start of spring, and serves as a time for reflection, forgiveness, and renewal.
It is also a huge a party and begins the night before Holi with a Holika dahan, or bonfire.
2. You Burn Out the Devil
The night before Holi, bonfires are built to burn Holika, or the devil in the Hindu religion.
The ritual serves as a reminder of the Hindu legend of Holika and Prahlad. HoliFestival.org writes:
There was once a demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth. He was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved him every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. For, Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a boon, whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed.
Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion.
Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika. And, is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil.
Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the legend depicts that anybody, howsoever strong, cannot harm a true devotee. And, those who dare torture a true devotee of god shall be reduced to ashes.
This is seen as a celebration of good over evil and is reenacted annually the night before Holi.
3. You Throw Colored Powder
The next day, Holi begins and it is a giant free-for-all where participants try to douse each other in colored powder or water. Parks, public places, and streets become rowdy with people covered in rainbows of color.
To help the celebration further, participants often mix cannabis into drinks and food.
After sobering and cleaning up, the night is usually reserved to spend time together as a family.
4. It’s Spread to Non-Hindu Areas
The idea of what Holi represents has spread far across the globe, and now Holi festivals without any particular religious connotations can be found in Europe and the United States. They are usually viewed as a secular spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors.
Holi parties are springing up from England to South Africa, luring big-hearted partygoers like Mr. Silva, a Brazilian trekking across Europe. Touting an intoxicating blend of Woodstock and Bollywood, the gatherings can draw more than 10,000 people.
5. There Are Environmental Concerns
While all the colors are fun, there are both environmental and health concerns now associated with Holi with the advent of synthetic colored powders and paints. Traditionally the colors were derived from turmeric, sandalwood paste, extracts of flowers and leaves, and other naturally occurring, organic matter. However, there is now concern over toxins and eye irritants in modern Holi colors, reports Science Direct.
A Clean India campaign has been started to try to get Holi participants back to using more natural colors.