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Holi - Festival of Colours - Fairs and Festivals in
Holi, the Festival of
Colors is celebrated in India to welcome the season of spring and end
of winters. It is a two day long festival celebrated with lot of
gaiety all over India but special mention should be made of Holi of
Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. On the eve of Holi, people
gather to light a huge bonfire of the dried leaves and twigs. On the
morning of the festival, people meet each other to apply dry and wet
colors each other, play with water and eat sweets together.
According to Hindu mythology, the roots of the festival of Holi can be
traced to the story of Hiranya Kashipu. He was the demon king in the
ancient times who had got a boon from Lord Shiva that nobody could
kill him. After being granted the boon, he considered himself to be
equivalent to God and insisted that his subjects should worship him
rather than the Gods. His son Prahlad, a strong devout of Lord Vishnu
objected him. This angered Hiranya Kashipu and he tried to kill
Prahlad many times but the child always came out unhurt. One day,
Hiranya Kashipu decided to set fire to Prahlad who was seated in
Holika's lap, Hiranya Kashipu's sister. Although Holika had the boon
that the fire cannot burn her, she was the one who died in the fire
and Prahlad was not hurt at all. Thus, Holi is celebrated as the
victory of good over evil.
The Festival Fun
Holi demands big time planning. Buckets and barrels of strongly
coloured water have to be concocted and water balloons filled to greet
friends and neighbours. The gala time starts in the morning itself.
People go around smearing each other with gulal (coloured powder) and
coloured water. Children shoot jets of water from their pichkaris,
screaming gleefully. A lot of people spend the day alternating between
getting drenched and coloured, and consuming thandai (a
marijuana-based drink) in large quantities as the day progresses.
Singing and dancing to the beat of dholaks (drums) completes the
The evenings are not ‘as’ exciting. A good part of what’s left of the
day is spent in that special room of the house – the bathroom.
Scrubbing and scrubbing, and then scrubbing some more. It is an
exercise that is repeated for days as it’s a normal sight to see
people with patches of pink skin, green hair, purple hands and silver
nails, for days and even weeks after Holi. Even the neighbourhood cows
and buffaloes get their share of colourful patches.
The Grand Celebration In The Cities of India
In the cities of Barsana (a town 60km from Mathura and home of Radha)
and Vrindavan (the most famous sites around Mathura and the place
where Krishna played with the gopis) Holi is celebrated is a special
Thousands of people flock to Vrindavan on this festive occasion and
watch Vrindavan transform into a puffy colourful cloud of gulal from
which emerge magically as it were, endless narratives on Krishna’s
There is an especially interesting ritual practised by the people
here. Bhabis (sisters-in-law) beat the devars (younger
brothers-in-law) to pulp! What follows is a delirious scene of bhabis
chasing, cornering and pounding the devars, while they exhaust every
trick in their arsenal to dodge the former. But this is done in good
cheer and no offence is taken. In fact the devars look forward to it
as much as the bhabis do. Well, ‘almost’ as much as the bhabis.
Like all of us, Dawn has a job to do, so she steals one last glance at
this multi-coloured canvas, breathes a little sigh and moves on to
Pakistan. and sometime in between, she keeps her annual tryst with
Krishna to tell him India remembers and thanks him, above all, for
being the god of things small as well.