Bhagatji Maharaj's Birthday - The Swaminarayan Sampradaya also celebrates the birth of Bhagwan Swaminarayan's second spiritual successor on this day.
This festival celebrates the arrival of spring on Fagun sud Purnima. Also known as Falgunika, people celebrate the changing season and the beauty associated with spring blossoms by spraying color.
In the Gita (10/35), Shri Krishna proclaims spring as the foremost season and one of his Vibhutis -forms:
The ritual of offering roasted grain to Agni - fire-deity is known as Navaanineshti. In Sanskrit, roasted grain is Holaakaa, from which the Hindi 'Holi' is derived. Since Vedic times people availed the newly harvested grain only after offering to the devas. This offering of new grain is Holi.
The Bhavishyottara Puran associates Holi both with man and yagna. Therefore the yagna performed for man's salvation is Holi.
There are several stories associated with Holi.
The Bhavishyottara Puran cites a story concerning a rakshasi (demoness) named Dhundhaa, who harassed children and teenagers. To keep her away, people kindled fires at various spots. Then the young and later everyone else chanted God's name and circumambulated the fires. Thus the Lord's name and fire kept the demoness away. In this manner, Satya Yuga's king Raghu propagated the festival of Holi. Furthermore it is believed that Dhundhaa manifests as disease in children, during this period of seasonal change, when kapha (phlegm) increases in the body. Fire is the shakti which protects one from disease. Therefore wood of the Shami tree (Acacia suma) - symbolizing Agni deity - is burnt in the fire to circumvent disease.
- Another belief concerns Putna, the giant demoness who tried to kill the child Krishna. When he vanquished her, the cowherds jubilantly burnt her body outside the village. Henceforth the Holi festival came into being.
- More renowned is Prahlad's story. Hiranyakashipu, a demon king and father of Prahlad, was a dissenter of Bhagwan Vishnu, whom Prahlad worshipped. Infuriated by his son's devotion, Hiranyakashipu attempted to kill him. In one attempt, he instructed his sister Holika, to wear her miraculous sari, which could not burn, and then sit in a fire with Prahlad in her lap. By the Lord's wish, she happened to wear the wrong garment and was immolated. Symbolically, maya, in the form of Holika, was destroyed by Prahlad's staunch devotion. Therefore to eradicate our maya, we should offer unalloyed bhakti.
- This day also marks Lord Manu's birthday anniversary. Mankind is Lord Manu's offspring. He composed the Manu Smruti, a scripture regarded as a manual for man's life on earth.
- Nar-Narayan Deva's birthday anniversary too, is celebrated on this day. As the fourth incarnation of Bhagwan Vishnu, he is considered as the embodiment and incarnation of brahmacharya (celibacy).
Immersed in maya, pained and tainted by Maya, man is exhorted to vanquish his base instincts. The true Holi is in eradicating these instincts and simultaneously being 'colored' by the Lord's 'color.'
People burn Holika's effigy. Hence the festival is also known as Holikaa Dahan. It is celebrated in Mewar and Marwad in Rajasthan with as much fervor as Diwali in Gujarat. People hurl gulal powder on each other in the streets.
Also known as Pushpadolotsav - Festival of Flowers, it is celebrated on the day after Holi, on Fagun
Once Arjun accompanied Shri Krishna to Raivatachal - Mt.Girnar. Here the Lord pleased the Yadavas with divine sports. In turn, to please him, the joyous Yadavas made a swing of flowers. They then seated Shri Krishna and Arjun on the hindolo (swing), performed pujan and swung the hindolo. Henceforth the two became renowned as Nar-Narayan and the Pushpadolotsav came into being.
By performing actions in accordance to the rules of Dharma, to please the Lord, the devotee symbolically brings the Lord nearer his heart. This is akin to pulling the hindolo swing towards himself. When the devotee falters in his devotion, the Lord moves away, symbolised by the swing moving away. Therefore the devotee strives to offer better bhakti, which results in the Lord's incessant proximity.
Devotees construct a hindolo of flowers, instal the Lord's murti and swing Him. They also spray colored water on each other.
On Fuldol, people traditionally offer fagwaa roasted chick peas (chana), dates and popcorn to God and partake of the prasad.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, the women devotees of north Gujarat requested Bhagwan Swaminarayan for unique fagwaa in the Fuldol of Samvat 1868 (1812 CE), in Sarangpur. It comprised lofty sentiments in the form of a prayer to be delivered from maya:
Maha balvant maya tamaari, jene aawariya narnaari...
The prayer, versified by Nishkulanand Swami in the Bhaktachintamani (ch.64), is sung regularly even today.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan celebrated Fuldol in many different places during His period. Of these, the two most prominent were in Samvat 1872 (1816 CE), in Vartal and in Samvat 1868 (1812 CE), in Sarangpur. Pramukh Swami Maharaj celebrates this festival on a huge scale in Sarangpur in Saurashtra, with devotion and fervor.
In the Swaminarayan Sampradaya's shikharbaddh mandirs, Fuldol is traditionally celebrated with immense fervor after the Rajbhog Arti, around 11 a.m. A water hose attached to Bhagwan Swaminarayan's murti in the central shrine sprays colored and fragrant water on the devotees. Besides being solaced they feel spiritually charged in being graced with sanctified water by God.