Holi, the festival of colors, joy, goodness and belongingness; is associated with some of the popular legends, which are as follows —
The Legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashipu
Hiranyakashipu, the demon king, gained a boon of immortality (amritva) from Lord Brahma but slowly and gradually, he started troubling the people of his kingdom and even stopped them from worshipping God.
But Hiranyakashipu’s son– the young Vishnu devote, Prahlad, remained undeterred and continued offering heart-felt prayers to Lord Vishnu. This made the evil King very angry and he decided to burn his own son with the help of his sister, Holika since she was blessed with a miraculous shawl that remained unaffected by fire.
Thus, Holika sat in the burning fire with young Prahlad in her laps, hoping that Prahlad will get burned while she will escape the sparks of fire with the help of her blessed shawl.
To everyone’s surprise, Holika-symbolic of evilness, got destroyed in fire while the pure-hearted follower of Lord Vishnu, Prahlad got saved. The fire couldn’t even touch the benevolent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This started the practice of Holika Dahan (burning Holika).
The Legend of God of Love, Kaamdeva
After Devi Sati sacrificed herself in the sacred fires of yagna, the saddened Lord of Lords, the mighty Shiva, renounced the world and went into deep meditation. His absence brought imbalance in the entire universe, severely affecting life on earth.
Hence, it became extremely important to wake up Lord Shiva from His trance (Samadhi). Thus, Devi Sati took birth in the form of Goddess Parvati to reunite with Lord Shiva and save the world.
But even after several attempts, when Goddess Parvati failed in Her efforts to wake up the Lord, the God of Love, kaamdeva, offered his help.
Kaamdeva issued an arrow of lust on Lord Shiva to once again awake His interest in the world. This greatly angered Lord Shiva, who opened His third eye and burnt Kaamdeva to ashes. But, when Lord Shiva’s anger subsided, He blessed Kaamdeva with immortality in His invisible form.
Hence, this started the practice of applying sandalwood paste to Kaamdeva to help Him heal His burns.
The Legend of Lord Krishna and His beloved, Radha
Once, the playful and notorious Lord Krishna, asked His mother, Yashoda about the difference of color in His and Radha’s complexion. (Lord Krishna had dark color while Radha had fair-complexion). To this, Yashoda, suggested Him to smear Radha’s face with any color of His choice. The Lord, in a happy mood, then applied color on Radha on the banks of river, Yamuna. Hence, people started the practice of playing colorful Holi; coming together and celebrating in unison.