The hues of Holi

The much hyped ‘super-moon’ that appeared with all its celestial splendor on the night of March 19, belying many scary superstitious predictions and heralding the triumph of scientific observations, turned out to be a delightful spectacle which enhanced the gaiety of the Holi festival that fell that day. I happened to be one of those fortunate ones to witness the largest visible moon in the last few decades that illuminated our planet and the magic of that milky night took me back to the time when I enjoyed this much-cherished festival of colours during my professional life in central India.

People of different states might be following different rituals and traditions but what makes this glorious spring festival which falls on the full moon day unique is the spirit in which it is celebrated. Irrespective of age, sex, caste, creed, religion and social disposition we celebrated the festival with a genuine feeling of brotherhood and I recollect instances of even bitter enemies turning friends on this joyous occasion. We smeared gulals in rainbow hues and drenched one another with ‘pichkaries’ to our hearts’ content. Mundane worries were forgotten as we fondly exchanged varieties of sweets and other exclusive savouries. Capping it all was the wonder drink ‘bhang’, an intoxicating concoction specially prepared for the occasion that set the proper mood for unbridled singing and dancing.

It is believed that the rituals followed commonly have certain logical and scientific connotations. Celebrated on the eve of spring season, the shedding of dry twigs and leaves by the trees are used to light the bonfire to mark Holika Dahan symbolising the victory of good over the evil besides resulting in clean surroundings. It is also the time to discard the colour-soaked old clothing and wear new ones just in sync with mother Nature who wears new green look with the onset of spring. The coloured gulals used are believed to contain certain healing ingredients especially for skin disorders. Another interesting thing that is much relished is that one can unleash the foulest-possible ‘gali’ (abuses) — to no one in particular, of course — to release one’s bottled up bitter emotions and those outbursts are not supposed to be taken amiss!

The occasion had its share of sardonic humour too! A friend of mine had a deep-set aversion towards one of his assistants that was well-known in our professional circle. Once, on a Holi morning, my friend was taken aback to see this chap at his door step. Before he could react, the fellow explained that his guruji had urged him to go and embrace his worst-possible enemy on this auspicious occasion and that was exactly why he had come to meet him! Needless to describe the scene that ensued thereafter!

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