Holi one thing is for sure, there is no other Indian festival that fills the hearts and the atmosphere with fun and screams. This festival Holi, otherwise known as festival of colours, is the symbolic welcoming of the spring and bidding farewell to the freezing winter.
Speaking of the spring one immediately remembers the tender green leaves on the trees, the blossoming flowers in the gardens and the sweet calls of the Cuckoo echoing in the ears, heralds the advent of a new season. The freshness splurges with the colours and an aura of romance all around.
With Holi, people bury their hatchets with a warm embrace throwing their worries to the wind and every nook and corner presents a typically colourful sight.
Red, Yellow, Pink, blue, black or silver you may or may identify your best pal as young and old are drenched with colours, alike. On this day, people are suddenly caught unaware with colours that would be showering from atop the houses, bursting balloons or long pistons squirting coloured waters.
The festival has long traditional links with various legends. As far as one legendary tale goes the word Holi is derived from the name of demon Holika. She was sister of a demon king Hiranyakashyapa. He defeated the Gods and proclaimed his own supremacy over the universe at large. His son Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and Hiranyakashyapa decides to punish him severely and divert his mind from Lord Vishnu.
In this process he hands over his son to sister Holika. Holika was blessed with immunity from fire element. She carries Prahlada into the fire, in order to punish him. A divine intervention destroys her in the fire, protecting Prahlada.
Thus, Holi is said to be celebrated to mark the burning of evil Holika, a celebration of the triumph of good over evil.
This festival is predominantly celebrated in Northern India, though Holi is fondly f ted throughout the country. Actual preparations for the fete begin a week ahead and houses will be given a fresh colour coat with beautiful designs and floral patterns at the entrance. During olden days, colours were extracted from a flower that blossoms only during this festival and the spray pistons were made out of bamboo sticks. With the changing times, colours are being manufactured artificially and pistons made of different materials and in various vibrant designs. Folklore and dances are performed around the fire to welcome the new season, while Holika trees would be usually burnt on the eve of Holi, Dhuleti.
On the Holi day, people play and have fun with coloured water sprinkling on each other. In the evening younger generations seek the elders blessings carrying some dry colour powders to them. Visiting each other s houses carrying colours and special dishes like Dahi Wada, Sweet made from raw jackfruit, Malpua and so on.
In some regions like Bengal Holi is marked by performances of Dolothsava. Lord Vishnu s idol/ image is swayed in decorated swings and coloured powders are offered to the deity. In Mathura, there is a special importance to Holi. This festival solemnises the love of Radha and Krishna, while spraying coloured powders and water recall the love sport of Lord Krishna with Gopikas. On par with the Northern India, Holi is not celebrated with as much fervour in Southern India. However, the spirit of communal harmony is very high and people indulge in merry making, playing with coloured water is a common sight. Peasants and labourers wander from house to house, singing and dancing asking for Holi tips.
The festival of Holi begins on Dwadasi (the twelfth day of the waxing moon) in the Lunar month of Phalguna (This is the twelfth lunar month in which the moon’s change takes place, when the Sun is in Pisces.) Spirits of people starts to run high as the preparations for the festivities begin. A custom is in practice for mothers to make new clothes for their married daughters.
Rang Pashi brings Holi into all households, three days before the full moon. Earlier, the household Purohit or Priest was invited to begin the celebrations and this form had been taken over with the family head replacing to do the priest’s job.
A plate arranged with distinctive coloured powders and a container filled with coloured water is decorated and placed in the middle of the house. The eldest male family member or head of the family launches the festivity by sprinkling the powders and waters on the family members assembled on the occasion. Every member would do this in a systematic way. This unique system is said to be practised for sharing the affection and blessings by every member of the family.
This comes to a close with the partaking of food specially prepared for the occasion that normally include Gujia, Papdi and Cangi Wada. Non-vegetarians prepare Kofta curry too and it is habitual to serve drinks before the meal.
The next day will be called as “Puno”. Holika’s effigies are burnt to upkeep the legend of Prahlada and his devotion to Lord Vishnu, on this day. Huge bonfires will be lit on the street corners at the crossroads. This gradually had become a community celebration of people. They gather near the fire to fill the air with folk songs and dances around it. During the occasion sheaves of green gram and wheat are roasted in the bonfire and eaten by the participants.
Now, the actual festival of Holi takes place the day after this. This day is known as “Padwa”. A riot of colour takes over the children, friends, relatives and neighbours who gather on the streets. Gulal on the major and other colours will be thrown into the air and smeared on each other’s faces and bodies.
Phalguna is the twelfth lunar calendar month. This month arrives with a promise of warm days and new life. In other words, spring is the season for rejuvenation and rebirth. The winter gloom is discarded and the earth starts to blossom again. Embarking on to this change, Holi flings colour into Indian landscape and invites the celebrations of life.
Clothing, similar to all other festivals in the country Holi has its share of traditional clothing. Their mother will gift young children and married daughters with new clothes. The tradition followed as, once the daughter’s children get married, they automatically forfeit the right to be gifted and should start gifting their wards in turn. “Dandia”, a special saree is gifted normally on the occasion. The saree would normally be woven white cotton in voile or malmal variety. Indian Pink, a non-fast colour will be dyed on the borders. Dipping all the four borders of the saree and dipping them in the colour so that two to three inches of each end of the saree absorbs the colour to bring the border effect. Later, the colour unevenly spreads its splendour towards the middle of the saree to a limited extent causing an effect of a slowly spreading blush. According to individual tastes, once the borders dry up, the saree can be further exotically decorated.
A border of gold or silver, of about two or three inches in width are stitched on the edges of Dandia. This one is famous as “Gota” border. A fine fringe of gold and silver will be attached to the saree on the portion that covers the head, Pallu adding shimmer to Dandia. Another saree, matching blouses and petticoats are gifted along with Dandia, as a custom.
Eventually, many women like to wear white sarees or salwar kameej while men prefer to wear white pajamas and kurtas. The white colour of the dressing acts as a wonderful contrast to the bright colours that will be poured on.
A unique variety of sweets will be prepared for Holi. Most famous among them are, Gugia, Papdi, and Cangi Wada in vegetarian and Koftha curry for non-vegetarian likers. There is a practice of serving alcoholic beverages along with food on the occasion of Holi.