Holi is one of the most highly anticipated festivals, not only in India but around the world as well. Despite being a Hindu festival it is celebrated across India by one and all, and it has in recent years become a global phenomenon.
This vibrant festival can be traced back to as far back as 300 BC evident from a stone inscription found in the province of Vindhya in Ramgarh . A more concrete evidence is one belonging to the 7th century Sanskrit drama called “Ratnaval”. “Everything is coloured yellowish red and rendered dusty by the heaps of scented powder blown all over.”, reads an extract from the text. A lot of artists have also captured this festival in their paintings. In Hampi, a 16th-century temple has many scenes of holi sculpted on its walls. Also, a lot of contemporary paintings depict the celebration of this festival.
This festival of colours in the modern times has become another reason to party. However, many people still see it as a way to commemorate the triumph of good over evil especially in northern parts of India, keeping alive the various legends associated with Holi- the Prahalad and Holika episode, the immortal love of Radha and Krishna, among others.
Earlier holi was a festival of togetherness. A time when all social boundaries came down and each and every person indulged in the celebration. Preparations started weeks in advance. Wood was collected for “Holika Dahan”. Almost every household made their own colours from naturally occurring ingredients like haldi, flowers of the Palash tree, etc. Women of different households gathered together to make traditional sweets like gujiya, while drinking of thandai or bhang was also customary.
Holi begins with “Holika Dahan” and ends with Dhuleti or Rangpanchami. In Gujarat, the dance of the local tribes, Bhilala and Bhils using thali and drums to celebrate “Bhagoria” festival which coincides with holi has become a tourist attraction. Another popular tradition was the breaking of a pot filled with butter by forming a human pyramid which is now commonly associated with Janmashtami.
Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of Lord Krishna witness the celebration of Holi on a massive scale for at least 16 days. In recent times, the towns of Barsana and Nandagaon have attracted a lot of attention due to its unique way of celebration -“Lathmar Holi”.
Recently, Vrindavan, home to almost 6,000 widows, witnessed widows celebrating holi for the first time. The town has been attracting widows from all over India for no particular reason. They were until recently barred from taking part in festivities, so this was an incredible feat which could not have been achieved without the help of the aid group “Sulabh International”. The celebrations took place in the Gopinath temple, and those celebrating were joined by widows from Varanasi as well.
Pakistan’s Sindh province, where a majority of its Hindu population resides, for the first time declared 24th March as a public holiday. The decision came after a resolution taken up by Pakistan’s National Assembly to try and make Diwali, Easter and Holi as public holidays.
The uniqueness and the fun factor of this festival has drawn the attention of people from around the world. The Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, in USA which is associated with the religious organization ISKCON, observes the biggest celebration of holi. Other countries like Mauritius, UK, Spain, also indulge in throwing colours, dancing to bollywood songs and dhol, basically the whole shebang.
Despite the commercialisation of this festival, holi is still a festival of togetherness. A day when you can forget all your worries, dress in your shabbiest clothes, forget about decorum, and just indulge in the fun since…..
Bura na mano, Holi hai!
Happy holi and be safe.