Holi – the festival where people rejoice and celebrate forgetting their biases/ grudges and come together as one with bright shimmering colours all over them, loaded with pichkaris and water balloons, sweet/ savories, and not to be missed – bhaang – the favorite drink of Lord Shiva. It is a festival that aims at teaching each other equality as people apply colour to each other’s faces regardless of their caste, gender, and religion.
Being celebrated all over India, the festival goes by many names, Rang Panchmi in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Phakuwah in Assam, Basant Utsav in West Bengal, Manjal Kuli in Kerala to name a few. It is also celebrated in Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
Holi is celebrated in the month of Phalgun, which generally falls around February or March. The festival starts the night before Holi, marked by Holika Dahan, where a bonfire or Holika is lit around dusk and everyone gathers around it, eating or talking with their friends.
Holika Dahan is followed by Holi, which marks the triumph of good over evil and truth over ignorance. There are many stories that talk about the origin of Holi, one such story shows the origins of Lord Krishna’s blue skin complexion. On being poisoned by the Putana’s breast milk, Lord Krishna’s skin turned blue in colour making him doubt if the fair-skinned Radha would like him. His mother suggested smearing colour on Radha’s face and changing her complexion. He did as he was told and Radha accepted him despite his skin colour. As a result, Holi is also celebrated as the festival of divine love of Radha and Krishna.
Today, not one year goes by without articles on how harmful synthetic colours are and how polluting it is, but Holi was never a polluting festival. The colours used in ancient times were all extracted from different natural sources, such as flower petals and spices. These also had medicinal properties and benefited the skin.
As industries grew, the production of synthetic colours became cheaper and their sale became profitable, this resulted in the popularisation of these synthetic colours and the decline of organic colours. However, with the rising concerns of the negative impacts of synthetic colours, organic colours have become more common during Holi celebrations.
Every colour used in Holi has a significance:-
Blue represents Lord Krishna’s blue skin complexion,
Red symbolizes love and matrimony,
Green symbolizes new beginnings.,
Yellow signifies health and happiness and
Orange, though not traditionally used in Holi, can be seen being used frequently today, it symbolizes the sun which represents a new day.
This year, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and celebrating Holi as we did a few years ago may not be possible. This doesn’t mean we stop celebrating the festival, this year, we can celebrate the festival by spending time with our loved ones, forgiving the grudges we bear against each other, and accept people regardless of their caste, religion, or gender. This year let’s ensure that we are able to overcome the pandemic, following the rules set by the government, staying true to the heart of Holi, and overcoming the evil of COVID-19.