8th March 2012 was Holi in India.
It is one of the festivals where you let your hair down and have some great fun! In sharp contrast to most Indian festivals, which involve wearing your best and traditional clothes, on Holi, you wear the clothes you no longer want to wear and will not be able to wear after the day is over! (Or you keep it for the Holi celebrations the following year). The reason is simple- the celebrations involve getting together with your friends in a common ground or garden and spraying each other with water guns and applying dry or wet colours on each other’s faces, using the garden hose and buckets to drench people is another very popular act of this festival. It is hence the ‘festival of colours’. You really end up mucky and coloury and wet and hardly recognizable. Of course it is all in good humour and in the spirit of the festival.
You get dry as well as wet colours in a variety of shades in the market, water guns and water balloons are another favourite with the kids and folks do their shopping in advance so as to come prepared for the festivities. Usually around mid morning is when people step out unless the kids can’t wait and step out even earlier (it is one day where they get to be at their naughty best!). People usually oil their hair which enables easier removal of the wet colours while taking the mother of all showers post the celebrations.
There is loads of drinking ,eating and singing as well. During Holi some special treats are put together and one of the most popular is called Gujjias which are sweet tasting deep fried pockets made from flour and filled with a cooked mixture of jaggery, coconut and cardamom. One also needs to be wary of the all too popular bhaang (cannabis) pakodas which are basically savoury deep fried snacks which have a permissible amount of cannabis seed powder in them, but if had in large quantities might land you in funny situations and with a bad hangover.
The smearing of colours and the merry making usually lasts for a couple of hours including lunch and then people get home to shower and snooze all afternoon.
But what is the significance of this festival in the Hindu religion?
There exist many stories behind the reason for celebrating Holi and the manner in which it is celebrated across the different states of particularly North India. One of the popular beliefs is that a Hindu prince who was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, survived being burnt in a born fire which was his punishment meted by the King- his father since he refused to worship the King and only recited the name of Lord Vishnu. The kings sister ‘Holika’ had a boon that fire could not destroy her and so she sat on the born fire with the young prince in her lap, but by calling out to Lord Vishnu, the prince survived and Holika perished. Hence a night before the main Holi day, born fires are lit and people gather around to pray and praise the Lord. The night of burning Holika/bornfires is also called Choti (little) Holi.
This year it coincided with Women’s Day and I think that was perfect! A festival of many colours and the celebration of womanhood – of what women want, can and strive to be day after day!
Happy Holi to those who celebrate and Happy Women’s Day to all the women Hubbers on HubPages!