Holi Hai !!

Holi Hai !!

Fun, Excitement, Laughter, Joy, Bliss, Exuberance, Happiness

These are the feelings that permeate through me when I think of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. A joyful and vibrant festival, Holi marks the advent of spring. It is celebrated with food, colors, music, and dance all over India and across the world wherever there is a diaspora of Indians. People from different regions of India celebrate this festival with a touch of their own sub-culture and tradition. But what is common amongst all is throwing colored powder at each other and drenching each other with colored water to the shout of “Holi Hai (means Its Holi!)”.

Just thinking of Holi makes my body sway and legs dance to the vibrancy of this festival. A beautiful and spirited holiday where everyone and everything becomes a collage of vivid shades of color. A truly delightful and fun extravaganza. No somberness is expected. In fact, just the opposite! Consuming Bhang (by adults), an intoxicating milk and sugar drink mixed in with some cannabis herb, and throwing colors at friends and strangers alike, is all taken in a stride on this day.

There are no demarcations on the basis of age, gender or social class. If you are out in the open, you are a fair game. No restrictions. If you do not want to get wet or plastered with powder, don’t step outside. Legend has it that the Hindu deity Lord Krishna was dark in complexion. When Krishna was a child, he asked his mother why his skin tone was dark and his friend Radha Rani’s so fair. His mother then told him in jest “Why don’t you color Radha in the same color as you?”. That’s what little Krishna did. And that’s what all little boys and girls and not so little ones do during the festival of Holi. Color each other the same.

Photo by amotherschronicle.com

Holi is a two day festival, with the Chhoti Holi occurring on the eve of the colorful or Rangwalee Holi. During Chhoti Holi, a bonfire is lit outside houses or temples or buildings. People from the neighborhood gather around this fire and sing and dance. The bonfire symbolizes Holika Dehan or burning of Holika, from which the name of the festival “Holi” originates.

According to Hindu mythology, Holika was an evil aunt of Prince Prahlad, who was an ardent devotee of Hindu god Lord Vishnu. Prahlad’s father, the demon king Hiranyakashyap had begun to think of himself as God and ordered everyone in his kingdom to worship him. Unable to convince his son to do the same, he asked his sister Holika who had a fire-proof shawl to sit in the fire with Prahlad in her lap, with the expectation that Prahlad will burn to death while she will live on. However, once they were seated, and the fire lighted, the shawl magically flew from Holika and draped Prahlad as he sat reciting the name of the lord. So Prahlad was saved but Holika scorched. Thus, the bonfire on this Chhoti Holi signifies the victory of good over evil and by kindling the firewood, people pray that their inner evil be destroyed.

Photo by amotherschronicle.com

Growing up in India, Holi was my favorite festival. I couldn’t wait for the morning of Holi to dawn wherein children in the entire neighborhood would be busy filling their household buckets with water, mixing in it the colored powder called “Gulal”, and then filling water balloons with it. Around 8 am or so, outside the houses, there would be lined up a multitude of buckets filled with water balloons and colored water that would be used with water guns or “pichkaris” (plastic tubes that take in and shoot out water). Up until noon, everyone outside their homes was a target of colored powder and colored water. In the yard, on the streets, by the temples. Everywhere there would be a fog of colors and a beautifully painted human canvas.

Interspersed in this atmosphere would be chants of “Holi Hai” or “Happy Holi” by “Tolis”, which is a bunch of senior people going together to different houses applying colored powder to its residents. The atmosphere would also reverberate with the sound of “Dhol”, an Indian musical drum, drummed by a group of roadside musicians who would visit the neighborhood and play loud, rhythmic, energetic music as people danced to it.

Physically and mentally soaked with the fun, frolic and excitement of the morning, we would then retire to our homes, clean up and eat the traditional Holi food of Gujia, Dahi Bhalla, Puran Poli, and other traditional delicacies. The evening would be marked by “Holi Milan” where we would visit our friends and family to wish them Holi.

May God gift you all the colors of life, colors of joy, colors of happiness, colors of friendship, colors of love and all other colors you want to paint in your life. Happy Holi. – Anonymous

To my friends who enjoy Bollywood music, here is a youtube link to my favorite Holi song “Balam Pichkari” from the movie “Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani”.

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