The dark greys of winter gives way to the sun and clear blues,
The rock solid ice melts to quench the earth’s thirst,
The dark ghost like trees sprout new greens and bears fruits,
The widowed land now dresses in colours so new,
The home confined people venture out for work and play,
And the birds sing various melodies to honour the spring.
Spring and its element wood marks the birth for seasons. This is the energy that brings forth new growth, that pushes the new grass through the snow, the new branches out from old wood, produces new leaves. It does this so nature can take in the nourishment it needs to flourish. It is the season for new hopes. It also warms you for the sweaty summer months, time to have vision and make plans.
Spring also called “Phagun” celebrates an important hindu festival of HOLI, a festival of colours. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. It is also celebrated as a thanksgiving for a good harvest season.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire. Holika, Prahlada’s evil aunt, tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada, who survived while Holika burned. Vishnu, the god who appears as an avatar to restore Dharma in Hindu beliefs, took the form of Narasimha and killed Hiranyakashyap. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all festival of colours, where people smear each other with colours and drench each other.
This information is readily available on the internet but today I want to share with you something I was inquisitive about holi and got to know only yestrday.
- Wood was sparsely available in the desserts of Rajasthan and hence people made badkula made of cow dung to create fire.
- Also a branch of a tree is put on top of the holika , and just after igniting it up a thread is pulled which pulls out the tree and prevents it from burning. Did you know why? The tree here symbolises the young Prahlada who was saved in the fire.
- A long sugarcane is carried with fresh wheat and green grams tied to it representing harvest and is roasted in the fire and eaten along with papad or popaddams. Papad essentially because it’s a dry item easily available in every household in Rajasthan. Also a long sugarcane not only protects from burning hands but also emphasis on the sugarcane harvest.
- Some ashes are collected form the fire and bought back home. It is then mixed with the mud in the house and a small sapling is planted. The ashes considered holy when mixed with the soil tends to purify the house and the new sapling denotes new hopes, now relations and marks a new beginning to life.
- The puja thali contains all dry grains, rice and pulses to signify nourishment and flourishment. Again these are dry because greens were difficult to find in the bare desserts.
- People made fire to mark the beginning of spring, they would rejoice, sing and dance around it. It served the purpose of community bonding and harmony.
Colours add happiness to one life. The abeer and gulal used in playing holi when made organically heals the skin, it has antiseptic properties too. It is believed that lord Krishna played holi with Radha and other gopis with petals of marigold and teesu. Kirshna was dark-skinned and often teased by the girls or gopis in the village. To take revenge he would smear different colours on them to look-alike. Turmeric and besan (gram flour) found in our kitchens are used to make colours too. They are anti-inflammatory and do not cause skin allergies.
Music is another important element of holi. The playing of Dhap (a musical instrument) with men dancing in women’s costume is a common practice during holi. There are many songs written and composed to honour this festival in our entertainment industry.
Food is an integral part of any hindu festival in India. Holi ka khana (food prepared for holi) primarily includes sweets, gujiya’s, dried vegetables like kair, sangari and vada. Thandai, a milk based drink with almonds, saffron and other dry fruits is made and shared with all. Bhang (an intoxicating mix of herbs) is specially prepared and served for fun.
Communities unite , friends meet and celebrate holi . It symbolises social living and brings harmony. holi parties are hosted with all its fancies to entertain guests and have a special time together. Rain showers are put on various spots , water guns , water balloons and buckets filled with coloured water are arranged for kids and adults to enjoy. With the atmosphere so colourful, songs filling the air , people rejoicing and laughing ,how can one keep away and not get drenched in holi celebrations. Before people leave me and go out to play , I must oil myself properly and get going now.
Happy holi to all, happiness and sunshine as always ,