Holi is the festival of colors. It is celebrated in India and all over the world where there is a considerable presence of Hindu diaspora.
Culture: the legend
The festival of holi is based on a legend. The hindu demon king Hiranyakaship was blessed with the boon of immortality. Due to this boon, he became arrogant and evil. He had a son Prahlad, who was a follower of Lord Vishnu. After failing to change the faith of his son, he asked Holika to take his son and sit on the pyre of burning wood. Holika was blessed with a shawl that protected her from fire. Holika wrapped the shawl around her and took Prahlad into the fire. To the amazement of the spectators, the shawl flew from Holika and covered Pahlad, who was saved and Holika was burnt to death. As per the custom big fires are setup to signify the burning of all that is evil and sustenance of good.
Culture: the social engagement with fun and frolic
Apart from the legend and the religion, there is fun and frolic involved in the festival. People of all age group join the celebration to throw colors on one another. There is music and dance all through the morning till later afternoon. In the evening people worship Krishna and Radha or Narayan in some cases. Araties are performed; sweets and thandai are distributed in and around the temple.
Cultural significance of colors
Red signifies call to action, energy, power, excitement, love and romance
Pink has the calming effect, softness, and femininity
Green signifies fertility, rejuvenation, wealth, money. Prosperity, hope freshness, soothing, youthfulness.
Orange refers to vitality, freshness, cheerfulness, confidence, courage, warmth, stimulate appetite;
Yellow signifies light, purity, action, caution, brightness, intelligence, sunshine, warmth and happiness
Brown signifies wood, earth, stability, warmth
Black refers to sophistication, authority, dramatic, classy, committed serious, power, elegance
White refers to peace, purity, perfection, goodness, spirituality
Grey signifies security, maturity and reliability
Psychology of colors
There is long lasting effect of colors on our brain which affects the mood and personality and stability.
Dark Blue: leads minds to passivity;
Blue and Green: leads minds to be calmed and relaxed;
Red: leads to arousing;
Orange: leads to arousing;
Pink: causes calming effect on mind;
Colors: the natural extracts
In the early days the colors were extracted from natural products like fruits, flowers, plant bark.
Green color is extracted from the Mehendi, dried leaves of Gulmohur tree, Spinach leaves, rhododendron leaves and pine needles
Yellow color is extracted from Turmeric (Haldi) powder, Bael fruit, amaltas, species of chrysanthemums, and species of marigold, dandelions, sunflowers, marigolds.
Red color is extracted from fragrant red sandal wood, dried hibiscus flowers, madder tree, radish and pomegranate, Rose or the bark of crab, apple trees, Red Sandal wood Powder, feels of Red Pomegranate, flowers of Tesu tree (Palash).
Saffron is extracted from turmeric power mixing it with lime
Blue is extracted from Indigo, Indian berries, species of grapes, blue hibiscus and jacaranda flowers
Purple is sole extracted from beetroot
Brown is from dried tea leaves and maple leaves
Black is extracted from some species of black grape fruit and amla
Colors: the toxic concoction
Now a days various synthetic colors are sold. They come is many more shades and cheaper than the colors extracted from natural sources. The synthetic colors contain heavy metals like copper, mica, manganese, lead which cause serious health hazards.
Copper sulphate in green color may cause eye allergies and temporary blindness.
Red is made with mercuric sulphide. Injection of this chemical compound will certainly lead to paralysis, blindness and other neurological issues.
Chromium iodine and dichromate are used to made purple and yellow colors. Chromium is a heavy metal that causes bronchial allergies.
Aluminum Bromide, chlorides are used for silver or white colors. It causes kidney problems and cancer.
Prussian blue is made of ferrocyanide salts and is very toxic and causes dermatitis.
Lead in black causes learning disability and neurological disorder
Note of caution
It is advised for all the holi revelers to take utmost precaution when playing with colors and wash themselves clean after the festivity is over. No hot water is to be used as they react with the colors and could affect the skin severely; no soap should be used for the same reason. They should consult the doctor if any sign of poisoning is noticed.