While I forwarded hundreds of HOLI snaps from emails of friends and relatives from India to my friends here earlier this morning, the email responses I received back were quite interesting. While most of my acquaintances here admired the vibrant colors and ecstatic expressions in all the snaps, some common questions were-What's the significance of HOLI?, Why use colors to celebrate?, Why head out in groups to celebrate?, What's with the crazy facial expressions? Well, you can always lookup wikipedia for a detailed description but here are some quick pointers about HOLI also known as Festival Of Colors:
- Structure: The HOLI celebration spans across two days. First day is known as Holika Dahan and the second day is known as Dhuli Vandana.
- Timing: Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (~Feb/Mar). Usually at this time of the year, farms and fields are in full bloom and people thus get into festive spirit and expect a good harvest ahead! Also, singing, dancing & merrymaking serves to rejuvenate the otherwise impassive moods and spirits that prevail during winters.
- Cultural Aspect: Like many other Indian festivals, it marks the victory of good over evil. Here's a short version of ancient story:
"Once upon a time there lived a ferocious king called Hiranyakashipu, who wished that everyone worshipped him. To his surprise, his son Prahlada worshipped Vishnu instead. Angry Hiranyakashipu then tried several ways to kill his son for his utter defiance but Prahlada would miraculously survive every time. Finally, the evil king asks his sister Holika, who had a special gift to escape from a fire unscathed, to enter into fire with Prahlada on her lap. When the fire commenced, interestingly Holika burns and Prahlada stays unharmed due to his sincere goodness, clear heart & pure spirit."
Indians celebrate this event (known as Holika Dahan) by lighting a small fire and praying together with their families on the day prior to Holi.
That said, do check out "Celebration of Colors" (An excellent rendition of true spirit of HOLI by a truly amazing photographer!) by Poras Chaudhary to visualy capture HOLI. As some of you set out to splash colors of happiness, colors of friendship, colors of love and colors of success to your loved ones - here's me wishing you a very joyous HOLI :D
- Colors: On second day (Dhuli Vandana), people head out from their homes in morning and splash water colors & dried colors (gulal) on each other. Kids chasing each other with water color filled ballons is a common sight. in communities get together and form tolis (small groups) and playfully apply colours and exchange greetings as they hope along from one house to another. The idea is to drench everyone around you and have pure uninhibited fun!
- Social Aspect: By late afternoon, people head back to their homes to clean themselves up and get some rest. Later in the evening, people put on new traditional dresses (sherwanis/sarees as the case may be ;)) and visit respective friends to exchange sweets, greetings and well wishes. The idea is to reconnect with those who matter most to you and strengthen your emotional bonds with everyone else.
"Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions."~Pablo Picasso
[Image Courtesy-© Poras Chaudhary]