Mon 17 Mar, 2003 07:46 am
Holi Hai !!!! (It's holi !!)
While Diwali, the festivalof light is a well known festival to all of you another major hindu festival which starts tomorrow, is relatively unknown outside the shores of India - Holi - The festival of colors !!
Holi, traditionally celebrates the arrival of Spring in India. While there are many legends associated with this festival, and thus the reason behind its existance, the most popular one is the one which celebrates the love of Lord Krishna and his sweetheart Radha.
Krishna's mythological presence in Holi is undisputed. Vrindavan and Lord Krishna`s legend of courting Radha and playing pranks on the Gopis (shepard woman) are also the essence of Holi. In Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna in his youth has been idealised as a lover, and it is the spirit of his lighthearted, mischievous passion of courtship that enters the Spring festival of Holi. Krishna and Radha are depicted celebrating Holi in the hamlets of Gokul, Barsana and Vrindavan, bringing them alive with mischief and youthful pranks. Holi was Krishna and Radha`s celebration of love - a teasing, affectionate panorama of feeling and colour. These scenes have been captured and immoratalised in the songs of Holi: the festival that is also the harbinger of the light, warm, beautiful days of Spring.
Another story relates to an ancient demoniac king in India known as Hiranya Kasyapu. All his subjects followed his orders except for his son Prahlad, who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. This infuriated his father who wanted to punish him. The king asked Prahlad to embrace a red hot pole. But, he was unhurt. Then, he asked Prahlad to jump off a steep cliff, but was unhurt again. Prahlad obeyed his father each time chanting Vishnu`s name. Hiranya Kasyapu ordered that Prahlad be trampled by an elephant. But, he was unhurt. As Prahlad was not hurt by all the punishment, Hiranya Kasyapu called his sister Holika from the gods that she would not burn in a fire. Holika made Prahlad sit on her lap in the fire. But, this time, Holika was burnt to death and Prahlad was unhurt. Eventually, the ordeals faced by Prahlad climaxed in the emanation of Narahari or Narasimha who destroyed Hiranya Kasyapu. Again, this displayed the triumph of a true Bhakta (devotee) over the evil represented by Hiranya Kasyapu. Prahlad never lost faith in the Lord despite all his ordeals.
While holi is celebrated in various part s of India in different ways, the underlying theme is the same - that of celebration of love, brotherhood, peace, harmony and togetherness. Just like the various colors in the rainbow live together with harmony, so do we all, no matter who we are, where we come from, what caste we belong to, what god we worship !!
Spirits run high as the preparations for the festivities begin, as a custom, mothers make new clothes for their married daughters. Coloured powder (Gulal) is bought and prepared, long syringes called `pichkaris` are made ready and water balloons are bought and filled. Preparations are made to cook the special food items exclusively meant for this festival. The families get together in the evenings when people visit each other to perform the formal sprinkling of colour.
Three days before the full moon, `Rang Pashi` brings Holi into all households. To begin the celebrations, a `thali` or plate is arranged with coloured powders and coloured water is placed in a small brass container called a `lota`. The eldest male member of the family begins the festivities by sprinkling coloured water and powders on each member of the assembled family. It is then the turn of the younger ones to do the same. In this unique way, affection and blessings are shared by all in the family. The celebrations on this day end with the partaking of food specially cooked for this occasion - gujjia, papri and kanji ke vade. Sometimes, meat dish like kofta curry is also served. It is customary to serve drinks before the meal.
The next day is known as `Puno`. On this day, Holika is burnt in keeping with the legend of Prahlad and his devotion to lord Vishnu. In the evening, huge bonfires are lit on street corners at the crossroads. Usually this is a community celebration and people gather near the fire to fill the air with folk strains and dances. Sheaves of green gram and wheat are roasted in the bonfire and eaten.
The actual festival of Holi takes place the day after this. This day is called `Parva`. Children, friends and neighbours gather on the streets and a riot of colour takes over. Coloured powders called `abeer` or `gulal` are thrown into the air and smeared on faces and bodies. `Pichkaris` are filled with coloured water and this is spurted onto people. Water balloons are thrown at friends and neighbours in the spirit of fun. Sometimes, mud baths are prepared and people are `dunked` into this amidst much laughter and teasing. The visitors carry `abeer` or `gulal` to pay their respects to elders by sprinkling some on their feet. The younger crowd is drenched with buckets of coloured water and pummeled with water balloons. `Dholaks` or Indian drums are heard everywhere and the songs of Holi are carried by the voices of these merry-makers. There is no `puja` or worship associated with this festival of colours. Some `gulal` or `abeer` is smeared on the faces of the Gods, especially Krishna and Radha, at the commencement of the festivities.
There are some quaint customs attached to this festival. Inviting sons-in-law and their families for a meal on this day is a must. When the meal is over, it is customary to give the sons-in-law, what is known as a `pyala` - a crisp note of any denomination from rupees five to rupees five hundred is offered along with a glass of drink. Married daughters are given what is called `kothli` or travel money by their mother-in-law, or the eldest lady in the family. Another custom entails a bit of fun, and is usually performed by a new bride with the help of the children in the family. The new bride is supposed to play a prank on the older couples of the family, usually her parents-in-law, and somehow lure them into a room to lock them in. The bride then demands a present for setting them free. The gift is usually a saree or a piece of jewelry. The bride is supposed to sing a song specially composed for the occasion, in which she will demand her ransom.
And of course, lovers have the most fun, as the festival itself celebrates the love of the greatest lovers of all times, Radha and Krishna.
Shokhion main ghola jaye, phoolon ka shabab, Usme phir milayi jaaye thodi si sharab, hoga jo nasha jo tayar, woh pyar hai .....
(Take some mischief, and mix it with the beauty and color of flowers, add a dash of alcohol in it and the inebritation which results is love.....)
Symbolizes the festival - mischief, color, beauty, flowers, booze and LOVE !!
So come one - come all lets PLAY HOLI !!!!
oooh - I read all about the festival of colours in "A Suitable Boy"!
here, it is the arrival of Autumn - but i shall celebrate with you, since Autumn is lovely where I live.
Bring on the dancing mins!
Those are beautiful Sozobe :-D
Bring on the celebrations Gautam!!! :-)
Today is Holi and I am stuck in office