Holi is the festival of colours usually celebrated in March. During Holi, people light bonfires, burn effigies of the evil Holika, smear each other with coloured powders and drench each other with water and water balloons!
The mythological origins of this festival, like Diwali, vary from North to South. In the south, this festival is a depiction of the fate of Kama Deva – the God of Love and Lust. It is believed that he had once aimed an arrow at his wife Rati, but missed and ended up hitting Lord Shiva instead. Lord Shiva was enraged, and his third eye opened, burning Kama to ashes on the spot. Rati was grief-stricken, and Lord Shiva, feeling guilty for having widowed her, granted her the ability to see her husband, albeit never again in the flesh.
In the North on the other hand, Holi celebrates the victory of devotion and purity over wickedness and ego. There was believed to be a King who ordered that every man in his land worship him as God. All complied but his son. The king was so incensed that he kept trying to kill his son, but to no avail, as the Lord Vishnu, who the son had accepted as his ultimate master, had granted him protection against his father’s evil designs. It is believed that one day, the King’s sister Holika, who herself had been granted a boon that made her fire-proof, offered to take the prince onto her lap and set herself ablaze. However when she did that, she burnt to death on the spot and the prince was saved, as her boon only protected her and not her evil designs. And so, on the day before Holi, effigies of Holika are burnt amidst much jeering and celebrations!