Soon the sky is going to be awash with dusts of pink, red, orange, green, blue and yellow.
That’s right – India is getting ready to ring in Spring with a riotous festival of colours – Holi. Just like with all other Hindu festivals, this too can be traced back to mythological narratives; the story of Holika, sister to Prahlad – an ardent Vishnu devotee, who is saved from being burned to death by his piety and in whose stead Holika burns.
Or something like that – I never did have a taste for these gory stories…
But on ground, Holi is celebrated with the full fervour and flavour of any other spring festival across the world – indeed by some accounts, celebrations even touch Dionysian limits of frenzy. By and large though, Holi is an occasion to ring in the rejuvenation in Nature that accompanies the change of seasons from winter to spring in most parts of the country.
In north India especially, the respite from foggy mornings is welcome as the sun’s rays grow stronger and life-sap begins to flow and hum. In eastern India, this is the season when red and orange flowering trees like Krishnachura and Palash set the landscape ablaze and fire up the blood. Known as Dol in Bengali, Holi was transformed into a Spring festival, Basantotsav by Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan where the young year is still ushered with music, dance and poetry.
Though Holi celebrations in southern india are more muted, nevertheless the occasion is marked by narrating folk songs about the God of Love, Kama and his consort, Rati. In Braj region and western India, Holi is interwoven with the romantic exploits of the butter-thief God, Krishna whose stories still grant a degree of licence to young people across the country to give in to amorous revelry.
The colours of Phagun, the musky fragrance of thandai, lilting thumris in raag Kafi, the dense sweet taste gujiya and the warm embrace of loved ones – Holi is a pure explosion of sensory pleasures.
And I am not complaining !