Sunday, March 24, 2013


By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant, VSM

Holi is a major Hindu festival that welcomes the spring. Holi celebrates the new life and energy of the new season. The weather is balmy and there is fragrance all around. Holi encourages the healthy revelers to spring into action and achieve their individual and collective aims. Indeed, Holi is a vibrant festival that brings unadulterated joy of pleasing colours to the entire social fabric literally and figuratively.

Bharat, that is India, is a predominantly agrarian country. Holi is preceded by harvesting of a variety of crops and, therefore, it gives the farmers and their families a genuine springboard to go in for real merriment. The fresh grain is offered as ``aahuti`` to Agni when the Holika, bonfire is lighted. The roasted grains are given to the assembled men, women and children as ``yajna-shesh or prasad. Thus a predominantly social festival also assumes an agrarian touch.

Going by various legends about the origin of Holi one finds that the festival of colours is immersed in the literary and theatrical activities of the society in the entire country, mainly in the northern parts of India. In Hindi literature poems of Surdas recount the Holi – sprinkling of water colours – in the Braj Bhumi which was the scene of action of Yogeshwar Shri Krishna. Another legend talks of Prahalad, a child devotee of Lord Vishnu being chastised by his own father, Hiranakashyap who was an atheist out and out. The sister of the said atheist king, named Holika had a boon to walk through rising flames of fire and come out unscathed.

Although miracles are illogical and the Vedic Dharm does not subscribe to it but some people believe that when the said sister called Holika tried to harm the devotee Prahalad by sitting with him in a lighted bonfire, it was he who survived and she was reduced to ashes. Lighting of the bonfire on the eve of Holi – Holi of sprinkling colours – reminds people of the evil being destroyed by burning and the Truth surviving against all odds. Some of these legends give religious roots to the festival of Holi.

Another version of the burning of the evil is sighted as burning of Kamdev, lord of passion by Lord Shiv. Indeed, Shiv is the Vedic name of the Almighty who inspires human beings to do good Karm and reap the harvest accordingly.

In order to move forward on the path of progress, a society needs cohesion. People need solidarity and unity of purpose. The festival of Holi provides a golden opportunity to the entire society to go in for a big-big celebration, without any discrimination of caste, creed, colour or sex. In celebrating Holi one is for all and all are for one. The King and the commoner are encouraged to embrace each other after sprinkling colours or applying dry colours on each other’s face.
In the sprinkling of colours there is a free flow of fun and frolic, mirth and merriment. Although social ``Lakshman Rekhas`` exist but they are crossed more often than not. One covers ones excesses by offering an excuse in a sentence saying ``Bura na maano Holi hai. ``(please do not take it ill, after all it is Holi). So say the young and the old alike. For a change there is no gender bias at all.

Old foes may make up and become friends by embracing each other on Holi. The festival may also bring a change of heart. Generally speaking it is for the better.

Holi is humour in action. While humour is predominant, poems of amorous nature are not conspicuous by their absence. In fact recitations of love poems are encouraged in certain sections of the society. In some parts of the country, a day or two after the main festival of Holi gatherings are organised to celebrate ``ALL FOOLS DAY.`` It is a part of the weeklong celebrations in the merry making society. The continual merry making also promotes `hasya kavi sammelan or humour dominated poetic symposia.
There is fun in ample measure. At the end of the day a jury of sorts selects ``dunce of the day``. This title is given to a man or a woman who says the silliest sentence or performs the most foolish act which will put an ass to shame. The person so chosen is crowned with a dunce cap, is given a seat of honour and is politely requested to perform a foolish act for the assembled audience once again. The dunce of the day is the focus of attention until the closure of the event. Of course, it is a part of the ongoing fun and frolic where no offence is meant and none taken.

The spring festival similar to the Indian Holi is celebrated in many other parts of the world too. Of course, in the Indian sub continent it is celebrated in March every year. Going by the Hindu calendar, the celebration is on the full moon in the month of Phalgun. A synonym of Holi is Phag or Phagwah, apparently a derivative of the month of Phalgun.
The Spring is around. If a spring comes, can Holi be far behind? So it is time for burning the evil and imbibing the noble. Celebration with gusto is an integral part of human nature. Man loves festivity. Dancing, singing and feasting form a part of Holi celebrations. Exuberance is in evidence all over. Indeed, the spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood emerges and provides social solidarity.

Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant, VSM
609, Sector-29
Arun Vihar, NOIDA-201303. INDIA
Tel: 0091-120-2454622
Mob: 0091-9811173590

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