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Holi has a long, long history and its origin is not very clear. However, the celebration of Holi has been noted in texts and pictures of ancient and medieval India.
Colors of India » Holi » Holi History

Holi in History

There are stories about Krishna spraying colors on Radha and other Gopikas and smearing their faces with 'Gulal' suggesting that Holi is older than the birth of these deities. In Bengal and Orissa, Holi is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the famous saint-poet. One of the oldest festivals of India, there have been evidences which suggests that Holi was being celebrated here as a festival since several centuries before Christ. Jamini has mentioned such a festival in his religious works known as 'Purvamimamsa Sutras' and 'Kathaka Grhya Sutra'. The paintings and murals on the walls of the ancient temples have captured the scenes of Holi, either based on Radha and Krishna or the royalty.

The 16th century panel found in a temple at Hampi belonging to the days when it was the capital of Vijaynagar Empire showcases beautiful sculptures of Holi in which a royal couple is shown being drenched by the surrounding maids who are sprinkling colored water on them by bamboo syringes known as 'pichkaris'. Other similar paintings include the 16th century painting of Ahmednagar depicting the theme of Vasanta Ragini or 'Spring Music' where the royal couple is depicted sitting on a grand swing while maidens play music and spray colors on them; the painting of Mewar (circa 1755), which shows the court of Maharana, who is bestowing gifts to people on Holi and is enjoying dance performances; and a miniature painting of Bundi depicting the procession of the king, seated on an elephant, and damsels showering 'gulal' on him from their balconies.

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