‘HOLI’ is not just about colours

Holi by Ram Lingam
Holi means fun. Holi means colours. Holi is one of the oldest Hindu festivals that goes back thousands of years. Like any Indian festival, it is full of meaning. But Holi is not just about colours…

HoliHoli means fun. Holi means colours. Holi is one of the oldest Hindu festivals that goes back thousands of years. Like any Indian festival, it is full of meaning. But Holi is not just about colours…

Originally Holi festival is known as Utsav of ‘Holika’ or ‘Holikotsav’. It’s also celebrated as spring (vasant) festival in northern India. But Holi is not just about colours as it is quite symbolic of the colourful diversity in India. A closer look at Holi reveals an Indian lifestyle which is so colourful in every way that it comes across as an overwhelming experience to a tourist. But the humble desi takes it for granted as he lives and breathes those colours everyday..

Rang barse…Where can we see the daily colours of India. Here’s a glance into the everyday colours: To start with the Indian kitchen, the critical masala dubba has so many colourful spices. What to say about the colourful Indian textiles, regional fashion, colourful designs, patterns etc. For example just one Rajasthani turban has a smorgasbord of colour. What about the colourful make-up on the face of a Kathakali dancer? Want to see more colour…here’s just a random list of colourful stuff India is made of – Indian cuisine, Indian thaali, festivals, Indian architecture, landscape, ecology, soil, temple frescoes, folk art, bangles, sarees, duppattas, handicraft, bedding, bridal wear, gems and jewellery, traditional kitchenware, home decor, carpets, the pooja alter, the bazaar…. the list goes on. Even our regional profiles and skin shades are colourful. Kitne rang bare hain Bharat mein. This is the daily Indian holi we see day in and day out.

Holi pracheen kaal se Bharat mein…Traditionally the story of Holi is associated with the devotional story of devotee Prahlad and the demoness Holika. Holi got its name as the “Festival of Colours” from Lord Krishna’s colourful play with his devotees in Mathura where he used to drench them in water and colours. Also, it has mention in early religious works, ancient Indian literature etc. A textual reference to Holi is found in the 7th century Sanskrit drama, Ratnavali where a scene talks about the townsfolk who are dancing at a jetspray of coloured water and coloured talcum powder.

Various references are also found in the sculptures on the pillars and walls of old temples. A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, the ancient capital of the mighty Vijayanagara kingdom, shows a Holi scene where a prince and his princess are surrounded by maids waiting with syringes to wet the royal couple in coloured water. There are old paintings that depict royal Holi scenes with people merry making throwing the colours of Holi at each other – be it the old Ahmednagar paintings or the traditional Rajasthani Mewari paintings or even the Bundi miniature art.

Holi ka sandesh…As we all know Holi is connected to the legend of bhakta Prahlad’s devotion to Lord Narayana and how the Lord enabled his escape from death at the hands of Holika. In the words of H.H. Swami Shivananda, the meaning of the story is “… to remind people that those who love God shall be saved, and they that torture the devotee of God shall be reduced to ashes… The call of Holi is to always keep ablaze the light of God-love shining in your heart. Inner illumination is the real Holi. The spring season is the manifestation of the Lord, according to the Bhagavad Gita. Holi is said there to be His heart.“

Holi ke rang aur gulaal… Originally the making of the Colors of Holi was totally organic. The colors of Holi, called ‘gulaal’, in the medieval times were home made. The main ingredients for gulal were the forest flowers of the ‘tesu’ or ‘palash’ tree. In those days, these, bright red orange flowers were collected dried and then ground to fine dust. The powder when mixed with water made a beautiful orange-red dye. This pigment and also ‘abeer’, made from natural colored talc were the ancient colors used during Holi. In fact abeer’s colours are derived from flower extracts like that of aparajita, marigold, hibiscus and dopati. They were certainly not harmful as it was naturally good for the skin.

From north to south and east to west, India has colours that are so unique that one wonders if Holi is celebrated every day. You will not get such a colourful a country anywhere else in the world. That’s probably why it is termed as a ‘subcontinent’. It is no surprise that India has always been known to the world for its brilliant colours since ancient times. Colours too are heritage of India.

Holi ka SMS: Here’s a cool and colourful Holi SMS: “Khaa key gujiya, pee key bhaang, laaga k thora thora sa rang, baaja ke dholak aur mridang, khele holi hum tere sang. HOLI MUBARAK”.

Happy Holi everyone. Have a safe Holi.

Posted in In the News.