This weekend, on Sunday 16th March, the annual Holi Festival will be celebrated in Leicester’s Spinney Hill Park. The event is the Festival of Colours in the Hindu religious calendar, and it signifies new beginnings, leaving behind Winter and welcoming in Spring.
The Festival is celebrated worldwide, and is a National Holiday in India, so this weekend the community of Leicester is expected to come together to participate in the colourful festivities.
The origins of the celebrations come from the story of Holika, the evil sister of demon Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu tried to make everyone worship him, but his son Prahlada, refused, and swore his devotion to Vishnu. According to the legend, Holika then tried to trick Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with her, because she had a fireproof cloak, but when the fire burned the cloak flew onto Prahlada, protecting him while Holika was killed. As such, the tale symbolises the classic victory of good over evil.
In Leicester it will be celebrated by the lighting of a bonfire, and people will walk round the fire while they pray. The fire must be lit at the correct time according to the Panchang (Hindu Calendar) and revellers will bring coconuts for sacrifice, as the whiteness inside symbolises purity and goodness. The coconuts are then blessed, and they will be cracked and people will have a piece, asking for their problems to be resolved. This ritual expresses hope for new beginnings and traditionally signified the growth of a new harvest coming in.
Speaking to Pukaar News, Jagdish Chauhan, Event’s Organiser for the Shree Hindu Temple and Community Centre, expressed his expectation that around 4,000 people will attend. He said: “Because it’s at the weekend we hope that a lot of people will come to join in the festivities – it is a very big and important community event for the people of Leicester and Leicestershire”.
As well as the coconuts and bonfire, the festival includes colour throwing – where people spray each other with brightly coloured powders and coloured water. Mr Chauhan called it “a joyful event”, adding that: “The festival allows people to make a new starts and rid themselves of any negativity”. He made it clear that anyone was welcome to attend, although it is generally expected that the majority of participants will be from the Hindu community.
The festival takes place at the Spinney Hill Park on Sunday 16th March 2014 from 4-8pm.