Holi gets its name from Holika, the demoness sister of evil King Hiranyakashyap in Hindu mythology. As the story goes, the villainous king tried to forbid his son Prahlad from worshiping one of the Hindu gods, Vishnu, but Prahlad persisted despite his father. So the king ordered Prahlad and Holika (who was immune to fire) to sit on a pyre, a wooden structure for burning a body as part of a funeral or execution. When the flames struck, Holika burnt to death in spite of her immunity to fire, and miraculously Prahlad prevailed because he called on the help of Lord Vishnu. So Holi celebrations serve as a reminder of the triumph of good over evil, reflecting the Hindu belief that faith and devotion leads to salvation that can be attained by everyone who believes.
Families across India lovingly prepare gujiya, a dumpling-like sweet that filled with dried fruits and nuts spiced with cardamom. Countless variations exist, but common fillings include pistachios, cashews, coconut, and raisins, which everyone enjoys during fiery Holika Dahan.
Toasting With Cannabis Milk
Some people toast Holi with a bhang–a milky beverage mixed with a paste of the buds and leaves of cannabis grown high in the Himalayas. Consumed for 3,000 years, this weed milkshake connects through mythology to the powerful monk god Shiva–and sold in government-run bhang shops.
Why the Dye
Legend holds that as a child, Krishna felt jealous of Radha’s fair skin, much lighter than his own blue face. When he complained to his mother Yashoda, she teasingly replied for Krishna to paint Radha’s face whatever color he chose, so he did. So the flying multihued pigments, called gulal, remind of the story of Krishna.