No festival brings a concoction of emotions as vivid and varied as Holi. No festival is as unique, effervescent and immersing, pun un-intended.
As a child, I would eagerly count the days to Holi at least a couple weeks in advance, drooling over the the mental imagery of innumerable delicacies that mother would dish up. Her culinary magic would show up better on no other day. The salivating taste of Pudukiya/Gujiya, dripping sweetness of Maalpua, tangy coolness of Dahi-Vada, vegetarian’s meat Katahal/jackfruit, the melt-in the mouth real lamb meat in spicy gravy which we would lick till the container dish was shining; and a lot more would keep the limbs, mouth and belly happily overworked the entire day. Mutton shops would open at 3 AM in our part of the world in those days, and people of all strata would queue up to buy fresh stock. By the time father would be back with it, mother would be half-way through getting the delicacies ready. Us kids would be ready working up an appetite, or better still continually gorging on something or the other.
Soon, it would be time to play. The whole world would go crazy; neighbourhood uncles and aunties in their unrecognizable camouflages would go back umpteen years of their respective lives and would be head-to-head with the younger ones when it came to spirit, energy, dare and of course splashing colours.
Within a few years came a time when I would dread playing, the growing young man in me would not tolerate an iota of colour on my glowing skin, or so I thought. I would hide in bathrooms till dragged out by the collar, legs, hands, basically anything my friends could get hold of. I outgrew this phase too, and am back with a bang to celebrating Holi the best I can. The legend and culture associated with it, coupled with lip-smacking food and the eternally unsuccessful quest to get Bhaang (Indian Marijuana) each season, keep me going.
The end of winters, and the onset of spring, coupled with celebrations of winter harvest became Holi sometime in the past. Overtime, so many legends lent themselves to its ever-growing pantheon, enriching it and themselves in return. None more beautiful than the romance of Radha and Krishna in the pretty woods of Braj, where Krishna would colour Radha to make her look like him. A little tragic but equally beloved is the story of Kamadeva who sacrificed his life at the altar of love– burnt to ashes by Shiva’s elusive third eye– while trying to re-ignite Shiva’s passion for goddess Parvati. How could the benevolent God stay angry forever? He restores Kama on the 40th day upon Kama’s beloved Rati’s insistence, and that day gets celebrated with colours ever since. The dour legend of Prahlad and Holika couldn’t dampen spirits as Krishna dances with his Gopis making everything loving and lovely, and inspires such exquisite imitations like the Lathmar (beating with sticks) Holi of Barsana.
In Barsana village of Mathura district, continuing with the legend, boys from Nandgaon (where Krishna hailed from) tease the women of Barsana (where Radha lived). The feisty ladies of Barsana can’t tolerate this subjugation, and they fightback, beating the hell out of (symbolically) the rowdies. Thankfully better sense prevails, the band of boys come to peace with the lovely ladies, and both celebrate smearing each other with colours the next day. This happens a few days before the main day of Holi each year. This documentry does a decent job of showing Lathmar Holi, till you actually see it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXpDaw4JTqU. The plan is to witness this in action next year.
Untill then.. Bura na maano, Holi Hai..
Featured Image Credit: Genlish.com