India, a land of rich culture and diverse heritage has many festivals. Holi ! the colorful festival of fun and joy has been one of my favorite out of the dozens we Indians celebrate. The mere thought of this festival fills me with excitement and enthusiasm.
I have always associated Holi with a time of great festivity, joy and love. Traditionally, during Holi, even enemies, turn into friends and forget any past grudges or hatred. This is the true essence of the festival. The colors spread their cheer all around, filling each corner with happiness and joy. Colors are definitely the main attraction and highlight of Holi; making it so popular with kids, irrespective of religion, caste, social status, or economic background.
Colors make for some of the strongest and fondest association in our brain. They can change even our moods. Colors evoke different emotions and responses ; eg: Yellow for comfort, Blue for trust, red for energy; and when they are all combined together as in Holi, they denote the strongest emotions of love and happiness.
Soon, it will be time to celebrate the fun filled Holi again, with colorful gulal and balloons, delicious gujiyas, and the cool thandai.
The very word Holi evokes such fond memories of fun, laughter and reunions . As a child, I literally used to start counting the days for Holi as soon as month of March began. Growing up, we would eagerly look forward to the colors, water-guns, balloons and off course the delicacies that were prepared on holi.
Having spent an almost nomadic childhood with frequent transfers to different parts of India, I have celebrated Holi in different styles, unique to each region. When I look back and revive the experiences of my childhood Holi celebrations, my most precious memory is of Holi spent in ‘Aligarh’ – a city in North India.
Holi was celebrated in its complete form and in its full glory in Aligarh, with everyone participating with great enthusiasm and joy.What made Holi even more special is this city was the ‘true spirit of holi’ that promoted goodwill, and unity.
Holi preparations started almost a week in advance. The most interesting part was the preparation of herbal colors in each home, to be used for playing holi. No one used chemical colors as according to religious tradition, only herbal colors were allowed.
To prepare the color, dried Palash or Tesu flowers (flame of the forest) were soaked in water for about two days, then strained to get a dark orange concentrate of herbal color. Later, this was diluted for use on the day of Holi.
This color was completely natural and thus completely safe not just for our skin, hair and eyes, but also for the environment. The wonderful smell of the Palash flower seeped into the color and when this was sprayed on each other during Holi celebrations, it imparted a nice, soothing fragrance to the whole atmosphere.
The festival started the night before the actual’ Holi’ with Holika Dahan (Bonfire) being lit in an open ground of the colony I lived in. It signifies the’ victory of good over evil’. The legend of Haranyakashyap and Prahlad ( in which Prahlad tolerates all the torture of haranyakashyap but does not give up his path of truth), helps to strengthen our belief in righteousness and honesty.
People gathered around the bonfire and roasted the new wheat stems in the pious holi fire and later these grains were offered to each other as a token of welcoming the new harvest of crop and thanking mother nature for her abundance.
We kids waited for the next morning with great anticipation. Often, we were not able to sleep due to over-excitement. We would irritate the younger siblings and cousins by drawing mustache on their face using kajal (black eye liner). #BuraNaMaanoHoliHai (All mischief is allowed on Holi)
The next morning we woke up early to welcome the ‘carnival of colors’. We had a quick breakfast so that we could hurry and start playing with colors. But elders allowed us to venture out of the house only after coconut oil had been applied all over our skin and hair. This was to prevent color getting soaked in skin; thus helping in their easy removal after holi. The coconut oil also acted as a natural block to the sun rays and as a natural moisturizer for the hair.
Once we were out of the house, it was a non-stop merry making and fun of throwing buckets full of color on each other, smearing each others’ cheeks with color or chasing each other with water guns in our hand.
As we moved from one friend’s house to another’s, we were welcomed with plates full of delicacies, which helped us in regaining our strength before we ran away on our next adventure.
As I pen down my thoughts; one interesting incidence comes to my mind- My Maths teacher was quite strict and she lived in the same colony where I stayed. I would always try my best to avoid her because of the risk of getting reprimanded for something or the other. But on Holi, I would gather all my courage and visit her home as i couldn’t resist a chance to pour color on her and with our color smeared unrecognizable faces, she could never make out who was who😄. Also, the tasty items ma’am offered us were very delicious and different from the other houses as she was from South India and her recipes were unique to that region.
There were some Nigerian and Palestinian students in our neighborhood. They were studying in the Aligarh Muslim University nearby. On Holi, even they were not spared from spray of colors. Initially, they were a bit apprehensive of playing Holi, because they had never played it before, but after getting soaked for the first time, they were unstoppable. They played with great enthusiasm and enjoyed a lot. They loved to dance on the Dhol (drums)Beats, which is an integral part of the Holi revelry and relished the goodies that were served.
Most of them were from Muslim or Christian backgrounds, but there was complete bonhomie amongst everyone without any differences. We all enjoyed to the fullest. The festival of Holi united us all. My friends who still stay in that colony, tell me, this is still the norm there.
I wonder why media is always full of stories of hatred and differences instead of focusing on such examples of togetherness and universal brotherhood.
Time may have glided by, but the beauty of these memorable experience still lingers on.
Today, though Holi has evolved into a new avatar, the spirit of the festival remains the same- one of joy and of rejoicing the love we have all around us.Ultimately, the joy of holi pervades our daily lives. That’s what makes it so magical !
As we get ready to ring in the festival of joy- Holi, let us pledge to spread the happiness and love all around and imbibe the positive virtues by deciding to burn our negatives traits in the holi fire.
Let us wash away all differences, end conflicts, forget and forgive, to repair broken relationships. It is the festive day to rid oneself of past errors and begin anew.
This Holi, let us shower each other with love and celebrate life joyfully !
Wish you all a very happy and joyous holi 😍
P.S. Water is precious. Pls play dry holi , in order to save water as the world is facing water crisis.
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