The word Holi brings to mind images of colours, colour ridden people, water, sweets, fried snacks, fun, laughter and celebrations. But there is more to the festival than this. There is a deeper meaning associated with Holi. The rituals actually begin a night before the colour-playing (Dhuleti) fun. It is called the Holika Puja and the legend behind it says that this Puja is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. In spite of Holika being a demoness, she is worshipped because the primary reason of her existence was to ward off different sorts of evils and fears in the world. Hence people perform the Holika Puja and then Holika Dahan the night before Dhuleti.
The Holi Puja includes cleansing the main spot of Holika Dahan with Gangajal and cow dung. Post this, four beads and a few toys are created with the remainder of the cow dung. The idols of Holika and Prahlad too are created using cow dung. A heap is created using a wooden pole and hay and tied around with religious threads. A Puja thali is filled with items like Akshata, Kumkum, Haldi¸colours, dhoop, Agarbatti, moong, batasha and coconuts. A small pot of water also needs to be carried along with the thali.
• The Puja starts with a prayer to Lord Vishnu and to Lord Ganesh.
• The prayers entail chanting of mantras along with making offerings like flowers, fruits, Haldi¸ Kumkum, Akshata etc.
• Followed by this, we do a similar thank you prayer to Devi Ambika and Lord Narasimha.
• It was Lord Vishnu, who in his Narasimha avatar, saved Prahlad from the evil clutches of Hiranyakashyap.
• Now pray facing the heap of Holika, take the Prahlad created from the cow dung out of the heap.
• Offer moong, coconuts, flowers etc. Circumambulate the heap 3, 5 or 7 times along with tying a raw yarn. Empty the water around the heap.
• Now light the pyre and pray to it. This ritual is known as Holika Dahan.
• One can also offer freshly cultivated crops like wheat and gram, roast them in the pyre and then offer them as Prasad to all near and dear ones.
• Do not forget to do the Parikrama around the holy Holi Puja pyre.
People do the shagun of applying colours to each other in the form of a teeka. The Bhasm from the bonfire should be safely kept. People smear this bhasm from the burnt pyre as a gesture to cleanse the soul, before actually indulging in the festivities, the next morning as it is known to have divine and healing powers.