We had this poem in school that was meant to capture the joy of spring.
But what better way to celebrate than Holi! Of all Indian festivals, Holi tops the list as my favorite because it celebrates two things I love more than anything else,the joy of colours and mera bharat mahan -India. Diwali is a close second with its many little lamps and triumph of good over evil significance. But Holi captures the vibrant joy and celebration that is so uniquely India.
With the growing awareness in recent times on use of non-toxic colours it will hopefully revert at some time in the near or distant future from the hooligan & rowdy behaviour to it's pristine roots of water, colours, food, songs and a time to celebrate spring or Basant Ritu. Down the ages, holi and spring have inspired poets and painters in Indian thought, whether as a raaga, a chota khayal, dance or as themes for miniature paintings. In recent times, every self-respecting commercial movie has had one if not all of the top three formulas-a rain sequence, holi sequence and a dream sequence. Even an off beat movie like Hyderabad Blues had a very contemporary take on Holi.
This year I also found short easy tips on making non-toxic colours in The Hindu of which my dad would say, if you have to read only one newspaper read, The Hindu - but it does not make much sense unless everyone is using the same:). Sweets are another very important facet of the festival and the traditional one in Maharastra and south is Holige or Puran Poli which you can buy or make. Like me, if you are in the mood to cook then you can find recipes here to make delicious holi sweets.
Holi has its roots in the story of Bhakta Prahlad, who takes on his father,an asura king by professing complete faith in the Lord Vishnu. Angered by his perceived betrayal,King Hirayakasipu, tries to have him killed and when he fails challenges by taunting the child. As legends go, Lord Vishnu in his 4th avatara of half-man, half-lion kills the king and saves his devotee. Bhakta Prahlad is one of the interesting story quoted to depict how for the sake of Dharma even near and dear ones, in this case a parent may be opposed, even forsaken, otherwise an heinous wrong. But I really don't know of anyone who reflects on roots or symbolism anymore,especially on Holi that is a complete cause for celebration. I am not sure how it jumps generations to then symbolise day two of the festival of Krishna and Gopis playing holi by throwing coloured powder and water, but it does so in what I guess is a social statement. Holi is signified by a ritual the previous night with a ceremonial bonfire to mark the story of Prahlads aunt, Holika who tries to kill him by fire. On the next day people spray coloured water and powder on each other, eat, drink and generally make merry. As all Indian festivals go, there is always a religious, a social and symbolic significance. I like to make my own and here is one which my friends like. Burn all your negativity one by one by throwing them in the Holi fire and fill your life with the colours of love!
It is Basant Ritu, the season of spring. Everything in nature is fresh and new. Filled with colour and love. Even in the urban concrete jungle that is Mumbai, one can see blooming gulmohar trees and hear the warbling of the koel. Spring is here!