Traditionally, perhaps Hindus are one ethnic race who celebrate maximum occasions throughout the year in the form of festivals world over. Although they participate in a variety of festivals with a lot of gusto and fanfare but of these Holi and Diwali are considered as the most auspicious and special. Holi is the festival of colours celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm particularly in the northern parts of India. It marks the end of winter and spring season symbolic to fertility, thrift and harvest. It falls on the Phalgun Purnima, the last full moon day of the lunar month (in February/March).
Although Holi is primarily celebrated in India and Nepal but many Indians having migrated and settled elsewhere in various parts of the world, the festival is now globally known as a symbol of colours, frolic and love. On the occasion, the fun and frolic can be observed at homes, open streets and roads, parks, buildings and near temples. People in groups carry dholak, drum and other musical instruments while moving from place to place enjoying fun with colours. Also they visit families and friends, exchange colours and eat festival delicacies, food and drinks.
Every year this festival invariably reminds me of several anecdotes of the early teenage. Those days I was so fascinated with colours that I would wildly indulge in chasing and exchanging dry colours, water guns and occasionally even balloons with colours among our lot at every such festive occasion. On one particular occasion, I thought others have not thrown enough colours on me so I started colouring hairs and cloths my own just before taking the bath because I had a fascination for rainbow colours flowing out of hairs and clothes on this occasion during the early age. Somehow this act was caught by my watchful mother who was initially shocked and surprised but later laughed at it in lighter veins. In the successive years, she kept reminding me and jokingly sharing this episode on every Holi with the near and dear ones till her death, more so out of her concern that in later years I could not maintain same level of zeal and enthusiasm with Holi colours.
Holi is celebrated distinctly in three parts among various communities. On the Phalgun Purnima night, people make effigy of Holika, the evil sister of an ancient demon king, and make bonfire of it. The following day, people exchange colours, wet and dry as per convenience and understanding, with each other and organize Holi Milan in a cheerful and festive mood. The third and most distinct part is that many of them endeavour to forgive and forget the past acrimony and conflicts with the friends and relatives to come close again on this occasion.
Spiritual gurus attach a lot of significance with the bonfire which also signifies destruction of people’s vices and weaknesses to purify own deeds and thoughts. Grains thrown in the bonfire by the people symbolize as the roasted grains cannot grow a crop so our vices and weaknesses burnt in the fire would purify our minds and save us from the crops of sufferings.
From the early experiences of Holi within my own community, I was most impressed with the third part i.e. the approach of the people to let go of the past. During the early life, I had actually experienced many instances how arch rivals and enemies in the community were seen genuinely trying to sink their differences and acrimony to come close again making use of this festive occasion. Forgiving and forgetting beings and things that create pain, hurt and sufferings are perhaps the best means to repair the damaged relationship and to welcome the change or newness in the life. Holi Milan actually signifies the acknowledgement and celebration of the universal love and brotherhood.