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HOLI- THE FESTIVAL OF COLORS ...

HOLI
(written by Sonal Kulshrestha. Copyright desideewar)


Holi, the festival of colors, is the second most important festival celebrated in India, the first one being Diwali, our festival of lights. Indians all over the world celebrate this joyously colorful festival, provided (yes, there’s a catch) the weather is reasonably good. For although its a spring festival, the joy is dampened if the weather doesn't permit a full-fledged water play. The water play I refer to ranges from taking shots at each other with a water-gun/ soakers (pichkaris)/ power-soakers, to launching water-filled balloons at the neighbors/ passer-bys (openly or sniper style). In fact, add literally shoving people into a large tub/ tank of colored water or even into the pool. The cleaner the person is before this is done, more the fun, of course.

Apart from the colored water, the celebration also involves putting dry color on people’s face and hair (nobody likes the hair part, but hey, who’s listening?). The motto of the day is “Bura Na Mano Holi Hai” which means - don’t mind, it’s Holi.

Holi celebrations are also associated with good-natured teasing among men and women. And yes, you guessed what I’m going to say next. The Indian film industry portrays this flirting in all its glory. I’m sure every single Indian has seen and enjoyed Amitabh Bachchan’s “Khai Gori Ka Lal, Balam Tarse, Rang Barse” in Sil Sila where he openly flirts with Rekha, another man's wife, on Holi. The song, sung on Holi in the film has forever come to be associated with Holi and hence played at every Holi.The megastar of Hindi Cinema, now over 70, has even given his fans the history behind not just the Rang barse song but also another of his popular Holi song, again in his own voice some 20 years later, Hori kheley , from the movie Baghbaan (2003). And yes, you guessed it, the lyrics for both are by his father, poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan. These are folk songs of Uttar Pradesh State of India.

The truth in real life is not too far away from what is shown in the movies.  We have all witnessed the jovial light-hearted teasing between an aunty and another uncle or for that matter between the guy next door and that girl on the top floor.  Such teasing definitely takes on a new level on Holi. (I am sure, you have a story on the topic comes to your mind too, doesn't it? Do share ..:))

Talking of Holi and Hindi movies, the excuse in the Hindi movies for flirtations and at times even obscene behavior is attributed to the effects of “Bhaang” (leaves and buds of the plant cannabis mixed with milk). And talking of bhaang, (which is practically the official drink of Holi in North India) you haven’t celebrated Holi if you haven’t tried bhaang at least once in your lifetime. I remember the first and the last time I had bhaang. My brother-in-law, who was a very fun spirited person, gave us thandai (pistachio milk) that turned out to be spiked with bhaang. It is said that bhaang brings out the emotions within- cauisng you to laugh uncontrollably if you’re happy and cry non-stop if gripped by a sad thought. Happy to say, I and my sister laughed non-stop that day. I remember the accompanying hallucinations too. As the mind plays trick on the senses, saw the bucket of water move back or rise up on its own accord. Never accepted a “milky” drink from anyone again on Holi.

Unfortunately, the streets are no place for women in most parts of India on Holi. There are bad elements out on the streets looking for cheap thrills as well. I’m sure most girls have a story to tell on the topic. The beautiful vibrant colors have a dirtier variations too. Hard-to-remove paints and mud are used along with the colors as well, making its removal an arduous task later.

As with other Hindu festivals, Holi is inextricably linked to mythical tales also.  According to Kalyani Bhat, who has taught religious classes in the Dallas Fort Worth Hindu Temple for 8 years,  Holi festival originated during the Narasimha avatar of Vishnu from the Dasha Avtara (10 births of Vishnu). Kalyani has this story to tell about why Holi is celebrated- the demon, Hiranyakshipu, through penance, was blessed with a boon from Brahma that he would not die at the hands of a man, an animal or a weapon, on earth or in the sky. His son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Vishnu and so his father did everything in his power to stop his son from praying to Vishnu. When Prahlad refused to do so, he plotted to have his own son killed several times with no success. Finally he asked his sister, Holika, who had the power to come out unscathed from a fire, to hold Prahlad in her lap and sit on a fire. The whole kingdom prayed for his safety to Agni, the fire God. The result was that when Holika sat in the fire with Prahlad on her lap, he came out unscathed while she was burnt to ashes. People were overjoyed and the custom of lighting a bonfire on full moon night (mostly the day before Holi) originated as a mark of respect to Agni for taking care of Prahlad and protecting him. Later in the story, Narasimha avatar (the half man- half lion birth of Vishnu) kills Hiranyakshipu with his claws, at twilight in mid air. There are other legends related to Holi too, many of them are stories of Radha & Krishna playing with colors. Many Classical Indian dances are based on it as well. They all point to having lots of fun with colors and water.

Wish you all a very boisterous Holi.

PICTURE GALLERY .... Pictures YOU Shared ... 

From Mumbai .... By Nirdosh & Rajendra Prasad 




 

 Holika Dahan- in some parts of India, people apply apply homemade body wraps which is scrubbed off and then thrown into the fire. The significance being, shedding and burning the evil in us and starting fresh.

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From Gurgaon .... By Kapil & Anshu


When we live outside of India, pictures like this (left) evokes nostalgia in us. Growing up,  we remember running up and down the stairs, throwing colors at the neighbors, pouring buckets of water at one and all.

 From Pune .... By Sapna & Kshitiz

And who doesn't remember what the aangan and the sidewalks looked like on Holi? Not to mention the vivid image of the balti (bucket), the pichkari (water-soaker) and the fully soaked/ colored/painted people that we have in our minds.

From Vrindawan .... By Jhankar

Many will relate with the religious aspect of Holi as well. For Jhankar and her family, celebrating Holi with Krishna at Vrindawan was special.

HOLI ... ITS PARTY IN THE U.S.A....

From Phoenix .... By Rupal Mohan

In Phoenix, for Rupal and her friends a pool-side party with colors and water-soakers marked the festival.

From Houston .... By Ameeta Achari (right)

For the Achari family, Holi is a tradition that cannot be skipped. And even though Ameeta and her husband, Arup, are second generation Indian Americans, Holi is never complete without gujiyas and colors in their home.


 Finally from Dallas ....  (below)

Holi in Dallas, where I live, is celebrated over couple of weekeneds- as is mostly the case where there are several Indians/ Indian Americans in America. One of the largest community celebration is held at the DFW Hindu temple where the festivities include stalls of delicious Indian snack and lunch items in the Cultural hall followed by playing with colors in the open lawns. There is DJ playing good Holi songs and large groups of people matching steps with music.

(Panaromic picture of the event, below, credit: Sanjay Kulshrestha)


 


 

Kids enjoy playing with colors ... 

.... while moms group up to pose and dance to the desi beats... 

You are sure to catch the white Americans enjoying this festival of colors too (above). When I asked them for pictures, they happily obliged. Some had shower caps on to protect their hair- they had obviously heard that hair is targeted with almost sadistic pleasure :).


So yes, we celebrate Holi with lot of fanfare here in America. What is the best part about Holi here? The fact that nobody "forces" themselves/ colors/water at you. You can be in the middle of a huge crowd and yet stay clean, if clean is what you wish to stay. "No" here does mean just that- No! Of course we always talk nostalgically about the Holi we witness (/ed) and enjoy(/ed) in India. But this year, I knew my Holi was complete when my blogger neighbor dropped by some absolutely delicious gujiyas! (picture, left and see recipe here).

(By Sonal Kulshrestha, writer/blogger/ creator, desideewar)

GOT HOLI STORIES/ MEMORIES/ PICTURES TO SHARE ? EMAIL US THE STORY AT- desideewar@gmail.com 

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