India - Holi, the Festival of Colors

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Holi, the Festival of Colors

Indians are colorful people by nature. The life is tough and they never miss an opportunity to celebrate it. Holi is a primarily a Hindu festival, though people from other communities too celebrate it with equal enthusiasm. It is called the festival of colours.

Indians love bright colours and they express their joy by smearing colours on each other during this exciting festival, which falls during the month of march.
Hiranyakashipu’s son, Prahlad, was a believer of God. His father was a demon king who tried to kill him many times but couldn’t. Now, it so happened that his sister, Holika, had a shawl which could protect her from fire. So the demon king lit a pyre and ordered his sister Holika, to sit on the pyre with his son Prahlad to burn him to death. Holika sat on the pyre after wrapping herself in the shawl. But the shawl blew away and Holika was burnt to death. Prahlad however was saved. It was the triumph of good over the evil. Holi is celebrated for the burning of Holika, who symbolized evil.

Every year, the night prior to Holi, a bonfire is lit to symbolize the triumph of good over the evil by burning of ‘Holika’. The next morning, people celebrate by smearing coloured powder and water on each others faces and body. It goes on till afternoon, although the powder stings the eyes. People drink a slightly intoxicating drink called ‘thandai’ or ‘bhang’. They shed their inhibitions and have fun together. Later in the evening, people go to each others houses and there is feast along with song and dance.

This festival is one of the chief festivals of the northern parts of India. It allows people to forget their differences and promote brotherhood. It is not uncommon to find groups of people singing and dancing on the streets to the beats of the drums, their bodies all smeared in different colors. It is difficult to recognize your own kith and kin among these monkey look alkies! Small babies may even get frightened when they see these silver grey or green color aunts and uncles around them.

In northern states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh the environment is rather rustic and there is a lot of good natured flirting and teasing. It is considered a part of the celebrations and nobody really minds it. No one can stay aloof in such an environment and old disputes are easily forgotten in the bonhomie that is created. There is a national holiday on this day and people of all communities participate in it. After Holi, it may take 2-3 days to wash off the colors and regain your natural looks and energy, this festival is so vigorous and heady!


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