Updated: Apr 26, 2021
“That morning, the entire Rudrapur, which is a small village in the district Etah, Uttar Pradesh, was bustling with energy. It was Holi afterall, everyone's favourite festival. The Chaudhary's haveli, which was situated at the centre of the village, was the main point of attraction as every villager went there to seek the Chaudhary's blessings. In the haveli's courtyard, huge speakers were placed and “Holi ke din dil khil jate hain” from the movie “Sholay” was playing on repeat. The environment inside the haveli was as chaotic as outside it. Chaudhary lived in a big, joint family. The women of the family were in the kitchen making gujiyas and other delicacies, and the children were already filling up huge thalis (plates) with different bright colours. Eventually, all villagers, along with their families, gathered in the Chaudhary's courtyard. After that, began the ultimate holi game. Everyone played, danced and sang their hearts out. At noon, every member of the Chaudhary's family, after showering, sat down to have lunch, which included Kachoris, Kanji vada and rice kheer. Once again, everyone gathered in the courtyard and sang Holi specific songs. Everyone's eyes sparkled with joy, radiating happiness. Holi, for the people of Rudrapur village, really was a celebration of love and friendships back in those days.” “Beta, come downstairs, we're getting late. Remember, I told you Saxena aunty is going to host a Barbecue Night on the occasion of Holika-dahan. Get ready for it, and ask amma to get ready, too, and don't forget to wear your mask” said Maa. Maa's reminder, within a second, took me out of my imagination. Amma was narrating how Holi was celebrated in our ancestral village, back in the 1980s. I'm yet to decide whether I'm a huge fan of this change that has taken place in the way Holi is celebrated, but I know for a fact that my amma definitely doesn't like it. This short piece throws light on how the meaning of Holi has changed in the last few decades. And, although there have been multiple changes in the way Holi is celebrated; bright colours, sweets and other delicacies, people dancing in groups- all these images still sweep across our minds when we think of Holi. Celebrated in the spring season, it symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of summer. It is rightly said by someone that “Holi is a special time of year to remember those who are close to our hearts with splashing colors.” Just like all other festivals, on Holi too, people from different communities come together to celebrate. Mythology: The festival of Holi is mentioned in the Puranas, one of the most ancient and important Hindu texts, and works of poets like Kalidasa. Every state in India has its own story related to the origin of Holi. Some associate it with Lord Krishna playing colours with Radha and gopikas, and some associate it with the story of Prahlad whose father Hiranyakashyap, a demon, asked for the help of his sister Holika to kill Prahlad because he was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Holika was blessed in the sense that fire couldn't harm her, so she sat in fire with Prahalad in her lap but the opposite happened, as she got burnt and Prahalad remained untouched by fire, thus indicating why a bonfire known as “holika-dahan” is organized. “Braj ki holi” is organized in Vrindavan, where men are playfully beaten up by women. South India has its own custom as there a lot of people offer prayers to Kamadeva, the god of love in Hindu mythology.
Science behind Holi: Like all other festivals, Holi too is backed by various scientific reasons. One of the most important reasons is to kill the bacteria that develops because of the transition of the weather. When Holika is burnt, the temperature rises in that particular area, thus killing all the bacteria present in the environment. Another reason is to counter the laziness people often feel because of the changing weather. People's physical movement while playing with colours, dancing and singing, help in dealing with laziness. It is also believed that the use of natural colours has a healing and beautifying effect on the human body, which is why people in ancient times used them to play Holi.
Holi's relevance in today's world:
The festival of Holi has evolved a lot. There's a huge difference between how it was celebrated in ancient times and how it is celebrated now, although there are many things that have remained constant, like- the use of colours, Holika Dahan, singing & dancing, and the delicacies, especially gujiyas. Another special thing about Holi is how it is no longer restricted to India. People from different countries come to India, especially Mathura, to celebrate Holi, and there are a number of other Holi inspired festivals organised in different parts of the world. The most beautiful thing about Holi, and all other festivals for that matter, is how they unify people divided on the basis of their social backgrounds. There are several things that have put Holi in bad light, for example- the use of synthetic colours, forcibly playing Holi with people who are not interested, spraying colours on street dogs and other animals. If people keep in mind not to indulge in all this and celebrate Holi properly, it is one of the most amazing festivals for rejuvenating ourselves.