India's Holi - A Festival That knows no Bounds
Everyone has heard of various legends that recall triumphant battles of Good over Evil in various forms. Who knew that one such legend would give birth to India’s most colour-filled festival ‘Holi’ so astonishingly named after the death of the demon-king Hiranyakashyap’s sister Holika, who plotted to burn away the innocent life of Prahlad who was saved by his divine master-Vishnu? Various other tales trace to the mischievous smearing of colour by the two famous lovers – Krishna & Radha as depicted in diverse forms in Hindu religious texts. Both tales seemingly highlight the celebration of the greatest emotion – Love, between a divine and his devotee.
On that note although pompously celebrated the world-over for its vivacious vibes, it is important for one to really understand the significance of a festival that bred in its place of origin – India, and the tradition that follows in every household. Replicating the form of Holika’s death, a customary tradition has it, that on the eve of Holi every Hindu home sets up a bonfire and performs rituals to pray for the destruction of internal evil, called Holika Dahan. The next morning transforms these ashy-streets into a show of colours (rang) that people around spray or splash, smear and play. Let’s look at how this fiesta takes form in various regions across India, breaking every barrier of religion, cast and creed, even to the extent of looking the same in shades of red, blue, yellow or green.
Barsana’s Lathmar Holi
A region that covers significant places like Mathura & Vrindhavan, where Krishna was born and cared for as a child – Natives of these areas recall and recreate scenes of Krishna’s pranks and practice a custom called the Lathmar Holi, where men from the Nandgaon play pranks on women who try to chase them away with lathis (sticks), more so like a game. Post this temple visits are followed with a joyous play of colours, music and dance.
Punjab’s Warrior Holi
The people of Punjab engage in Hola Mohalla, an annual fair that was first organized by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. However, instead of throwing colours, special demonstrations of physical agility, wrestling, martial arts, mock sword fights, acrobatic military exercises, and turban tying is what is witnessed on these grounds. Cheers and laughter from the large audiences ignite the festive spirits in Punjab.
Goa’s Spring Holi
In Goa, Holi is almost a month-long spring festival named ?igmo, where natives play Holi as a sign of inviting spring and harvest. Goan Hindus perform Holika Puja, and offering gulal (colored powder) to the deity. The celebration is drawn towards the victory of light over darkness where various parades and fanfares elevate the celebrative spirits.
Hampi’s Holy Holi
Mainly focused on temple rituals and religious rites, Hampi’s Holy Holi also includes an exciting element of colour sprays. Due to a wide attraction of western tourists, people of the town engage in fun-filled mornings, drumming and performing various arts and dances, amidst the evocative ruins of the grand Vijayanagar Empire. This exuberant spirit is carried off to Hampi’s river, where people end their joyous play by washing off the colours in its flowing waters.
Shantiniketan’s Cultural Holi
The celebrations here are inspired from the famous Rabindranath Tagore’s contributions, where the occasion is invited by programs conducted at schools and educational institutes, where students dress up in cultural attires and dance to the compositions of Tagore’s songs. Undoubtedly, colours play an integral part of these customs.
Delhi’s Holi Cow Festival
Various themed parties are arranged across the region, with music, dance and colour orchestrate the celebrations of people in and around the city. The Holi Cow festival or rather the Holi Moo festival is a multi-genre/multi-staged attraction that draws people from everywhere to participate in the effervescent occasion.
Mumbai’s Bollywood Holi
The occasion braces a schedule for two days, where the first day witnesses Choti Holi – where people engage in lighting up bonfires, offer prayers and coconuts in flames to signify the death of all negativity and sorrow, inviting new hope and prosperity. The second day or the ‘Dhulibandhan’ is just a splash of colours, where no difference in age or race bars enjoyment. Many festival goers enjoy Holi by consuming bhang – a treat made from Cannabis paste. Music, dance and fun-filled auras surround the spirits of Mumbai’s people.
Such is the splendour of this colour-filled festival across the nooks and corners of India. But how can one call it a festival without its delectable treats?
The traditional foods or mini-bites that sustain the celebrations are mostly snacks like Dahi Wada, Malpua, Moong Dal Kachori, Gujiya and Dhuska. But topping it all is the silver beverage called Bhang Thandai that has grown to be an inseparable part of the Holi festivities all over India.
With color occupying a major part of the celebrations, each color denotes a positive aspect that every individual wishes for the person he/she smears it on. Thus sourcing these colors from right natural sources only deems advisable. As a festival that involves children, sensitive adults and elderly, utilizing harmless ingredients to spread colorful good-wishes is what really throws out a message of care and trust, joy and the advent of a new spring.
Here’s to Wishing You a Joyous Happy Holi!
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