Holi, the Festival of Colours
Text and art work by Meera Ahuja
Holi, the Indian Festival of Colours,also known as Basant Mahotsav,has several tales associated with it.
In India, the festival is celebrated in a spirit of bonhomie in several ways.
The first tale is of Prahalada, a devotee of God Vishnu. His father, demon Hiranakashayapa, after making several attempts to wean him away from God,asked his sister Holika, who had the power to remain unscathed by fire, to sit on the pyre with Prahalada on her lap. Miraculously, Prahalada survived while Holika was burnt to death.
God Vishnu in a half man, half animal form, commonly known as Narasimha (lion man),appeared and slayed Hiranakashayapa. The tradition of lighting a fire, Holika Dahan, is symbolic of burning all negativity and starting afresh.
Another story is about the demoness Dhundhi, who, made invincible by several boons, devoured small children. However, she was cursed by Lord Shiva that she would be in danger from young boys. The ruler of the land, King Prithi asked that on the full moon night of Phalguna, when cold weather turned warm, the young boys should collect wood and grass, light a fire, recite mantras, clap their hands, laugh and go round the fire thrice. Their laughter and noise killed the Dhundhi. This tradition has, unfortunately, allowed youngsters to indulge in rowdiness, use rude words and get intoxicated.
Kamadev, the Hindu God of Love, was burnt to ashes by the third eye of Lord Shiva, when he shot an arrow of flowers to awaken the God from deep meditation. Kamadev”s wife, Rati, pleaded with Lord Shiva to forgive her husband and restore his life as he had been directed by the devatas, so that Lord Shiva could wed Goddess Parvati and their son could be born, who would then slay the demon Tarkasura.
The most adorable tale is of the lovable Bal Krishna, who often asked his mother why he was dark skinned while his playmate Radha was fair skinned. Yashoda laughingly told him to colour Radha in any colour he wished. Thus began the beautiful trend of playing with colours. Painting everyone with same colour removes differences, brings cheer, positivity, love and togetherness.
Nature is dressed for the celebration of Holi, the bright orange and red flowers of Palash,the Flame of the Forest, is used to play Holi. Raag Dhrupad, the oldest raag in Hindustani classical music is sung to celebrate the spring season and the love of Radha-Krishna.
Khelat Hari sang sakal
rang bhari hori sakhi
kanchan pichkari karan
kesar rang bori aaj.
Bhigan tan dekhat jan
ati lajan mann- hi-mann
aisi dhoom vrindavan
machi hai nandlal bhavan…….
Holi celebrations are incomplete without the Hasya Kavi Sammelans and Phagwa delicacies- gujiyas, malpuas, chaat, kheer, chakli, shakkarparas and thandai.