Chitranjan Sawant, VSM
Holi is a major Hindu festival that welcomes the spring. Holi celebrates
the new life and energy of the new season. The weather is balmy and there
is fragrance all around. Holi encourages the healthy revelers to spring
into action and achieve their individual and collective aims. Indeed,
Holi is a vibrant festival that brings unadulterated joy of pleasing colours
to the entire social fabric literally and figuratively.
Bharat, that is India, is a predominantly agrarian country. Holi is preceded
by harvesting of a variety of crops and, therefore, it gives the farmers
and their families a genuine springboard to go in for real merriment.
The fresh grain is offered as ``aahuti`` to Agni when the Holika, bonfire
is lighted. The roasted grains are given to the assembled men, women and
children as ``yajna-shesh or prasad. Thus a predominantly social festival
also assumes an agrarian touch.
Going by various legends about the origin of Holi one finds that the festival
of colours is immersed in the literary and theatrical activities of the
society in the entire country, mainly in the northern parts of India.
In Hindi literature poems of Surdas recount the Holi sprinkling
of water colours in the Braj Bhumi which was the scene of action
of Yogeshwar Shri Krishna. Another legend talks of Prahalad, a child devotee
of Lord Vishnu being chastised by his own father, Hiranakashyap who was
an atheist out and out. The sister of the said atheist king, named Holika
had a boon to walk through rising flames of fire and come out unscathed.
Although miracles are illogical and the Vedic Dharm does not subscribe
to it but some people believe that when the said sister called Holika
tried to harm the devotee Prahalad by sitting with him in a lighted bonfire,
it was he who survived and she was reduced to ashes. Lighting of the bonfire
on the eve of Holi Holi of sprinkling colours reminds people
of the evil being destroyed by burning and the Truth surviving against
all odds. Some of these legends give religious roots to the festival of
Another version of the burning of the evil is sighted as burning of Kamdev,
lord of passion by Lord Shiv. Indeed, Shiv is the Vedic name of the Almighty
who inspires human beings to do good Karm and reap the harvest accordingly.
In order to move forward on the path of progress, a society needs cohesion.
People need solidarity and unity of purpose. The festival of Holi provides
a golden opportunity to the entire society to go in for a big-big celebration,
without any discrimination of caste, creed, colour or sex. In celebrating
Holi one is for all and all are for one. The King and the commoner are
encouraged to embrace each other after sprinkling colours or applying
dry colours on each others face.
In the sprinkling of colours there is a free flow of fun and frolic, mirth
and merriment. Although social ``Lakshman Rekhas`` exist but they are
crossed more often than not. One covers ones excesses by offering an excuse
in a sentence saying ``Bura na maano Holi hai. ``(please do not take it
ill, after all it is Holi). So say the young and the old alike. For a
change there is no gender bias at all.
Old foes may make up and become friends by embracing each other on Holi.
The festival may also bring a change of heart. Generally speaking it is
for the better.
HOLI AND HUMOUR
Holi is humour in action. While humour is predominant, poems of amorous
nature are not conspicuous by their absence. In fact recitations of love
poems are encouraged in certain sections of the society. In some parts
of the country, a day or two after the main festival of Holi gatherings
are organised to celebrate ``ALL FOOLS DAY.`` It is a part of the weeklong
celebrations in the merry making society. The continual merry making also
promotes `hasya kavi sammelan or humour dominated poetic symposia.
There is fun in ample measure. At the end of the day a jury of sorts selects
``dunce of the day``. This title is given to a man or a woman who says
the silliest sentence or performs the most foolish act which will put
an ass to shame. The person so chosen is crowned with a dunce cap, is
given a seat of honour and is politely requested to perform a foolish
act for the assembled audience once again. The dunce of the day is the
focus of attention until the closure of the event. Of course, it is a
part of the ongoing fun and frolic where no offence is meant and none
The spring festival similar to the Indian Holi is celebrated in many other
parts of the world too. Of course, in the Indian sub continent it is celebrated
in March every year. Going by the Hindu calendar, the celebration is on
the full moon in the month of Phalgun. A synonym of Holi is Phag or Phagwah,
apparently a derivative of the month of Phalgun.
The Spring is around. If a spring comes, can Holi be far behind? So it
is time for burning the evil and imbibing the noble. Celebration with
gusto is an integral part of human nature. Man loves festivity. Dancing,
singing and feasting form a part of Holi celebrations. Exuberance is in
evidence all over. Indeed, the spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood emerges
and provides social solidarity.
Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant, VSM
Arun Vihar, NOIDA-201303. INDIA