Myth and religion mingle with the urge to have a great time; and Holi is a celebration as much of the 'triumph of good over evil' as of the coming of spring and the passing of winter.
There are myriad legends related to Holi and Hindus all around the world relive these stories every year and bring to life the incidents which they believe occurred thousands of years ago. This faith in God and ancient traditions is what still binds Indians in a spirit of love and harmony.
The very famous legend of Holi is of Holika and Prahlad. Its believed that there was a demon king named Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth and commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him. But his son, Prahlad, who was a passionate devotee of Lord Naarayana refused to worship his father.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill Prahlad but Lord Vishnu saved his life every time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a burning fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika deceitfully persuaded young Prahlad to sit in her lap in the fire where she herself was burnt in the blistering heat as she was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her evil desire with her life and Prahlad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana in the fire, came out unharmed. Therefore Holi is celebrated as a festival of victory of good over evil and as the triumph of a devotee.
Even today in several north Indian states, effigies of Holika are burnt in huge bonfires. People take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes as they believe that the pure fire will help to free their bodies from disease. Likewise there are many other popular Holi legends like the love play of Radha Krishna, Invincible Dhundhi and Sacrifice of Kamadeva.
The festival is also believed to be a ritual of renewal; old relationships are pulled out of mothball preservation and aired in the sparkling sun.