By Swami Harshananda
'Holi' is counted in the most popular festivals and sacred days of the religion. It marks the beginning of spring season. Spring is believed to be full of colors, hence people celebrate it by throwing colors and colored water on each other.
It is believed that this festival was initiated by the king Indradyumna in Vṛndāvana. It is spread over 3 or 5 days, starting from the śukla caturdaśi of the month of Phālguna.
It is celebrated in honor of Agni and worship of Govinda (Kṛṣṇa) image kept on a swing (dolā = swing) are the important features. The fire kindled on the first day is to be preserved till the last day. The swing is to be rocked 21 times at the end of the festival.
Celebration in Bengal
Popularly it is celebrated as a day of revelry in all the parts of the country, but Bengal observes it in a quiet dignified manner as Dolāyātrā or Dolpurṇimā.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya's Birthday
The day is also observed as the birthday of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya (A. D. 1486-1533) mostly in Bengal, Purī (Orissa), Mathurā and Vṛndāvana (Uttar Pradesh).
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore