Holi, plainly put, is a festival of colours. It is a Spring festival which heralds the advent of the lovely romantic season of love. In the days of secularism, we can say that it’s a day to celebrate the bond of friendship and soaked in colour, all forget the distinctions of caste, creed and colour. But the origins do have roots in mythology of our times.
There are different versions of the origin of Holi, but I would like to focus on one of them, which relates to Lord Krishna and his love, Radha.
According to a myth, Lord Krishna as a child was extremely disturbed by his dark complexion and jealous of Radha’s fair complexion. Fed up of the constant comparison more as a complaint,
Krishna’s mother gave a solution to the child. She suggested that he change the colour of Radha’s complexion with any colour of his choice by smearing the colour on Radha’s face! Krishna was impressed with the idea and proceeded to the same, and thus started the festival of playing with colours and on this day, you will never find anybody with the complexion s/he was born with. Over a period of time, this simple child-like play gained prominence in the poet’s expressions of love, romance and eroticism of the eternal relationship of Radha and Krishna and soon blossomed into a full fledged festival of colours. More so, in Vrindavan, and Barsana (the birthplace of Radha). The festival has special significance in these areas which are supposed to have been graced by both Mathura Krishna and Radha, where the festival goes on for about two weeks.
Another aspect of Holi is the license to misbehave and uttering of obscenities. In a repressed society, a sudden burst of enthusiastic intermingling and an unfound freedom of expression gives way to hurling of abuses and usage of vulgarities, without much reprimand. There could be a number of reasons for this. The primary amongst them lies in the myth of Bhakt Prahlad. One of the other important myths of Holi celebration, is the episode of Prahlad’s aunt, Holika, trying to burn Prahlad under the instructions of his father, but is reduced to ashes herself. Since then, the burning of a bonfire prior to the festival of Holi, Holika-dahan, is part of the ritual. In many parts of
hurling abuses and throwing cow dung at the bonfire as a mark of disrespect to Holika for her unkind intentions is a norm, and is practiced even today. In India Bengal, a pot which is painted with demonic eyes and lips, is put in the bonfire, and at the peak of the fire, it is ceremoniously burst by a large bamboo! Over a period of time, this has changed its attention from Holika to women-folk in general.
One more reason for such an act could be the secular aspects of the festival. In a society where caste-system was so prevalent and rigid, here was a festival which was trying to eliminate the generations old system. It gave vent to many from one caste to hurl abuses at someone from another caste and still get away by chanting – bura na mano holi hai (Don’t mind, its Holi!) and at times settle a long-pending score!
Obscenities or not, but here is a day full of joy and fun – so go ahead and have a fun-filled, eco-friendly, green Holi!
Happy Holi to all my readers!!!