The beginning of the festival of colors, or Holi, starts a week before the day of celebrations in Nepal. In Basantapur Durbar Square, there is a tradition of placing a long bamboo stick (lingo) with rainbow coloured cloth (chir) places in front of the old royal palace. This is also called “chir sthaapana” in Nepali, and is an auspicious ceremony celebrated by the Newars of the valley. On the eve of Holi, the lingo is taken down, and the chir is burnt. This signfies the Holika Dahan, which marks the beginning of the festivities. Burning the chir symbolizes the victory of truth, and the end of Holika who personifies evil.
The day on which this festival falls has many symbolic associations. The day marks the beginning of spring, and is also celebrated as a festival of love as a part of Krishna’s legened. In India, this day is also known as Rangpachmi, in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna.
Most young children in Nepal, grow up learning about Holika’s attempt to kill her nephew Praladh. Praladh, is the son of a demon, Hiranyakashyap, who wants everyone to worship him. Praladh however, is a sincere devotee of Lord Vishnu, and in anger, Hiranyakashyap sends his demon sister Holika to kill his own son. While Holika is blessed with a fire proof dress and decides to burn Praladh; due to his utmost devotion, Lord Vishnu protects Praladh, and instead Holika herself burns to death. Till date, Holika Dahan symbolizes the victory of truth and also people today pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika was killed in the fire.
The story goes that Lord Krishna kept asking his mother Yashodha, why he was dark, when all his Gopinis, including Radha were fair. Yashodha gives different colours to Krishna to throw it on the Gopinis face, but they love the Krishna so they enjoy the colors thrown at them, embarking the beginning of the festival of colors to be celebrated.
Currently, everyone joins the festivities of holi, throwing colours at eachother, and some play with water as well. A few years back the culture of water balloons and balloon fights were big, however, these days the celebration of holi has become very friendly and limited to those who want to be part of the festivities. The streets of Basantapur Durbar Square come alive with colour, music and sprinkles of water, as do the neighbourhoods of Thamel. Everyone wears white and the goal is get as colorful as possible, in celebration with friends and family. The festival brings a lot of joy as it also means colder days are really behind, the warm spring and summer days are officially ahead in Nepal.