Holi, the Festival of Colours, is a public holiday in Guyana. It is a Hindu celebration that symbolises the triumph of good over evil. It also allows citizens to foster national unity in a country that is working to achieve unity among its people.
There are several explanations for why Holi is celebrated. One legend has it that King Hiranyakashipu, King of Multan, received a blessing that made him indestructible. Because of this blessing, he became arrogant, demanding that people worship him.
His son, Prahlada, his son, who was devoted to Lord Vishnu, angered his father. This led the king to punish Prahlada severely. The king’s sister, Holika, tricked the boy into sitting on a pyre with her in an effort to kill him. Holika was wearing a cloak that protected her from fire so that she would survive while Prahlada perished.
However, as the fire burned, the cloak flew from Holika and protected Prahlada. The king was so angry he smashed a pillar, leading to a loud crash and the appearance of Lord Vishnu, disguised as Lord Narasimha, who then killed the king. It is said that the word “holi” was derived from “holika.”
In some areas of the world, Holi is known as Phagwah because it was originally celebrated in the month of Phagoon in the Hindu calendar. It is a spring festival, celebrating rebirth and fertility. The festival was to bring a spiritual influence to the harvest, promoting successful crops. People threw water, dyes and powders as part of the celebration as water was symbolic of fertile growth. Abeer, small crystals or paper that are similar to chips of mica, are also thrown in representation of the grain that used to be tossed during the celebration.
Celebrations and Traditions
In keeping with tradition, Holi is celebrated by the singing of chowtaals, special songs that have been handed down from generation to generation as well as the spraying of coloured powder and water. Children especially enjoy spraying the coloured water on people passing by with powerful jets known as pichkaris. Holika, a castro oil plant is planted a month before the ceremony. It is ceremoniously burned to represent the death of Holika and the triumph of good over evil. Guyanese who are living overseas often make special plans to travel back to their native country to celebrate Holi with their family.