It’s another name for Holi- the festival of colors where Phagu means sacred red colored powder and Purnima is the full moon day on which this festival ends.
This festival is observed for eight days just before the full moon day of month of Phalgun or March according to the Gregorian calendar. Holi announces the onset of spring and passing by of winter.
Phagu Purnima is a popular festival enjoyed by all the sections of the society and continues from eight days straight days starting from the eighth day of the waxing day and ending on the full moon day. It’s celebrated as a victory of good over evil and uses significant amounts of different colors especially the vermillion.
This festival occurs generally in late February or in the beginning of March and is known by this name in the Bihar region of India and even in the Nepal. People in Bihar also call this festival ‘Phagwa’ according to the local Bhojpuri dialect.
A religious text named Padma Purane Krishna Bachanam says that whoever erects a Chir (a bamboo pole decorated with strips of cloth) on the eighth day of the month of Phagunand and will keep worshipping it right till the day of Purnima with scented Vermillion and take the name of Lord Krishna will make Lord Krishna happy and he will bless the worshipper.
Another legend talks about how demon king Hirankyakashyap tried to kill his own son Prahlad with the help of this sister Holika. Holika was immune to fire so she took Prahlad in her lap and entered a blazing furnace. But an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, Prahlad came out untouched while Holika burnt to death. This signifies the victory of good over evil.
On this day, Chir is erected at the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square in Kathmandu and sacred vermillion powder is thrown on the pole. People also play with colors and spray each other using pistons and water balloons. People both young and old are drenched in colors and groups of people are seen singing and dancing while throwing colors on each other.
On the eve of Phagu, Holika tree is generally burnt and traditional folk dances are performed around the fire. In the evening of Phagu day, children play with dry colors and seek blessings from elders. Phagu is a major festival for the people of the Terai region who go for fishing a day before Phagu Purnima and on the day of the festival itself, families come together and daughters and son in laws are invited for elaborate food and drink affair.
Fish is one of the most important food items that are consumed during this festival. Other special dishes prepared on this day include Mal Pua which is a dessert made from flour, milk, sugar and dry fruits. Dishes prepared using Jackfruit is also popular.