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What colour is your ‘HOLI’-day?

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India as we all know is colourful with her people, festivals including the very geography. India has greenery, snow, different shades of soils, landscapes, deserts, rivers, seasons, people and the whole atmosphere is so full of colour. Add to that our colourful festival of HOLI where colours are literally used to show the spirit of the mind.

A website has even included Holi as one of the craziest and the messiest holidays of the world, but little do they know that almost all festivals in India are not without a spiritual message. Holi is primarily a Hindu spring celebration and originally it was an agricultural festival celebrating the arrival of spring – vasant ritu (spring season) and also a festival of fertility and harvest. It is also said to have originated from Hindu legends which gives spiritual reasons for the celebrations.

‘Holi’ is said come from the root word ‘Hola’ – meaning prayer to the Mother Nature for a good harvest. The ‘Holi’ festival is a very fun-filled and popular occasion in the northern part of India. It is an occasion when people smear each other with bright coloured powders, which are known as Gulaal, and coloured water. This festival is celebrated around early March each year. It can be said that ‘Holi’ festival is called a bright festival as a wide range of bright colours is used during it. The people believe that the bright colours represent energy, life, and joy.

The origin of Holi ~ Some Hindu legends provide some of the ingredients for the celebrations of Holi. The popular legend that is associated with the origins of the ‘Holi’ festival is the story of the wicked King Hiranyakashipu and his prince son Prahlad. Prahlad, who was very holy and often prayed to Lord Vishnu, infuriated his powerful father.

One day the king asked him “Who is the greatest, God or I?” “God is,” said the son, “you are only a king.” The king was furious and decided to slay his son. One day out of frustration, the wicked king ordered his sister, the demon Holika, to kill his son. The demon Holika, who was immune to fire, captured prince Prahlad and entered a fire furnace to kill Prahlad. However Holika herself burnt to ashes. The story goes that before the demon aunt died, she begged for prince Prahlad’s forgiveness and the prince forgave her and announced that her name would be remembered once a year. Thus the festival ‘Holi’ was created and Holika became the bornfire where all evil is burnt.  In many parts of India, a dummy of Holika is burnt on the fire.

Is Holi an ancient festival? Well it certainly has been celebrated since ancient times.  Holi is one of the oldest among Hindu festivals and we Indians have been celebrating this festival for thousand of years. In a 7th century sanskrit drama ‘Ratnavali’ the author captures the Holi spirit when he says

“Witness the beauty of the great cupid festival which excites curiosity as the townsfolk are dancing at the touch of brownish water thrown from squirt-guns. They are seized by pretty women while all along the roads the air is filled with singing and drum-beating. Everything is coloured yellowish red and rendered dusty by the heaps of scented powder blown all over.”

Various references are found in the sculptures on walls of old temples and also paintings especially the ones associated with Lord Krishna and his Gopi devotees. A 16th  century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene depicting Holi where a prince and his princess are standing amidst maids waiting with syringes to drench the royal couple in coloured water.

The 16th century paintings of Ahmednagar demonstrating Vasant Ragini (spring music). The royal couple is sitting on a garden swing and a maiden playing music is seen on one side and other maidens spraying water at the pair are seen on the other.

A 17th century painting of Mew?r shows the king with his courtiers and distributing some gifts to the people; beautiful dance is going on in the background and there is a tank filled with coloured water.  There are also some other R?jput paintings which show royal Holi celebrations.

Another 18th century painting at Bundi shows R?dh? and Krishna in the middle and the gopis on either side. The gopis are with drums, veena, colours and syringes. The sky is clear blue and the grass, lush green.

In modern times Bollywood has taken to Holi. There are so many songs on Holi. Almost all Indian radios around the world play the beautiful and famous song ‘Rang Barse’ from the movie Silsil? by none other than Amitabh Bachchan.

Talking about the colours we use in this festival the supreme colour is the ‘pink’ gulaal. Did you know that ‘gulal’, in the medieval times was made at home, from the flowers of the ‘tesu’ or ‘palash’ tree.

Lastly the colours of Holi carry the message of love, brotherhood, and truth. So whenever we splash Holi colours on somebody, you give him a promise of being truthful towards him always, maintain brotherhood with him lifelong and shower him with all the possible love throughout your life. Holi is the day to express love with colours and show affection.

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