Cloths drenched in mud, water and colour and faces smeared with indistinguishable colours dancing around in a frenzy of fun and frolic completes the quintessential Holi portrait. Only on this auspicious day you will find people of different age, status and gender coming together to celebrate and enjoy putting aside their inhibitions. Children running around with Toy Guns and balloons filled with colours can splash anyone without any fear. Holi is enjoyed by everyone, women or men, elder or children, friends or strangers. People chase each other to throw colours and everyone is a fair game. This is the day when even enemies get together and cherish a day of friendship. No festival or occasion can match the excitement and carefree atmosphere that is observed during Holi festival in India.
March, ending of financial year, also marks ending of winter and arrival of spring. In India, Nepal and even many European countries, this change of season is celebrated in form of Holi. Holi is celebrated on Phagun Poonam (full moon), traditionally in the month of March. It is a festival of great religious and social importance. Holi symbolizes victory of good over evil. This is the day to honour the conquest of light over darkness. Also, this is the day to recognize and appreciate nature’s gift of new harvest and new life. On this day, farmers salute the mother goddess in form of Holi and offer bounty of their harvest as a gift. Holi is celebrated across the length and breadth of India with changes in rituals from state to state.
Holi celebrations begin with Holika Dahan (bonfire) on the night before Holi where people meet to worship, sing and dance. Every colony, society and village builds a pious bonfire and worship Holi. Men and women conduct “Pradakshina” (circumambulation), offer rice, dates and coconut as a gift to the sacred fire and pray for better and brighter days for themselves and their loved ones. From this point on, the party commences.
Festival of Holi has inspired most number of folk and movie songs. Holi being a festival of love and mischief, the songs are equally mischievous and, at times, outright naughty. During and after Holika Dahan, people start singing and dancing. Holi songs carry different flavour of love, friendship, bravery and humour. In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh regions, Holi songs take form of “Phaga”. Phaga is a folk form of remembering the exploits of Heroes of past. You will hear brave tales of Ram and Hanuman and Arjun and Abhimanyu praised in these songs. Adventures of Alha and Udal and Prithviraj Chauhan are proudly sung. Devotion and sacrifice of Rana Pratap, Laxmi Bai and Shivaji are applauded in Phaga. Phaga is sung with energy and vigour of a warrior marching to battle. In some regions of Rajasthan, men play “Chung” (a drum of sorts) and sing and dance moving across the village. Holi songs convey the quality of the love, bravery and excitement.
On the day of Holi the whole world goes crazy. The atmosphere becomes exhilarated and electric. People form gangs to capture and colour their friends and strangers alike. It gives a free pass to lovers to express their love through various antics. There is an ancient tradition of love attached to Holi. It is believed that young Krishna, who had dark complexion, would apply colour of extremely fair skin of Radha in a mischievous mood. Since that time, lovers long to colour their beloved as an expression of love.
The legend of Holi goes as below. The demon lord Hirankashyap wants to end life of his blessed son Prahalad with help of Holika, who had boon immunity from fire. She enters the sacrificial fire with her nephew, Prahalad. Fire, however, burns down Holika and he is left unscathed. Thus the evil is defeated and good is triumphant. From ancient times, this occasion is memorized on the day of Holi and people celebrate this victory through colours and merrymaking.
“Bura na mano Holi hai” is a common phrase used on this day which means “You should not mind anything as it is Holi today”. It is not customary rather mandatory for everyone to join in the celebrations because only through relishing the day with reckless abundance one can genuinely understand and realize the magic of Holi. So, do join and invite your friends this year. Come, let’s play Holi.