As the festival of colors- Holi approaches every year in March i get all excited as this is the most vibrant festival of our country filled with loads of fun and frolic which spreads good cheer and happiness all around. It has always been my favorite festivals amongst the many festivals we celebrate in India. As you all know there are dozens of festivals that are celebrated in India; this is why it is called the land of festivals.
Off course the most attractive and enchanting thing about holi for me are the colors- the different hues of all the shades of rainbow can be seen every where during holi- in markets, on pavement shops selling brightly colored holi caps, water guns and gulal.
I think it is these beautiful array of colors, spread all around and the cheer they bring about in everyone’s heart and mind is what makes holi the favorite festival of kids of our country. All kids play it with great enthusiasm irrespective of their religion, caste or social standing. There is no difference for them while applying colors. Their only motto is to completely paint the other person in all possible shades. We adults get to relive our childhood days through the fun shared in this festival and revive all the wonderful memories of days gone by.
I particularly remember the holi I used to play at my native place with my grand parents and numerous cousins. Almost all the uncles and aunts living in distant places made it a point to come to our ancestral home during holi. I felt, the more the number of people gathered more would be the enjoyment. The actual preparations would start around a week in advance.
The best part was, we didn’t use any synthetic colors for playing holi; instead we collected tesu flowers ( yellowish orange colored fragrant flowers which are abundantly found growing in that season in north Indian region) and soaked them in water for a couple of days to prepare a color concentrate which could be diluted with more water to play holi on the day of the actual festival. The greatest advantage of using this color was that it was not harmful to the skin, eyes or hair as it was completely natural and herbal.As the flowers carried a beautiful soothing fragrance, the whole atmosphere would be filled with nice scent when colored water was thrown on each other during holi. This was a real feast for my olfactory senses.
Talking of feast, my mom and aunts would get busy preparing delicacies like gujias, chiwra, wadas, days in advance. Some of us elder kids were allowed to help in shaping the gujiyas which is an art in itself. We felt as if we had accomplished a big feat if our gujiya turned out in good shape and would display it to other cousins and relatives as if it was a hard earned medal.
On the eve of holi festival, holika dahan (sacred bonfire) would be performed at a big ground where all the neighbors and extended family members would gather together. This was a religious ritual where certain mantras were chanted and hymns sung making the experience very spiritual and pious. It symbolises the victory of good over evil, thus imparting important live lessons to all of us, especially the youngsters. We felt encouraged to follow the right path in life, no matter how hard the circumstances.
On the eve before the festival, we kept everything ready for the next day of non stop fun before sleeping so that we could indulge in revelry as soon as we woke up. But my most cherished memory is of the naughty prank we would play on our sleeping cousins during night itself; that was making mustache on their face with kajal (kohl pencil) or lipstick . We used to have a whale of time doing this…the hardest part was to control our laughter during the drawing lest they woke up. The whole house would crack up on seeing their cartoonish faces the next morning. The unsuspecting victims would be at a perpetual loss to understand what was eliciting such strange reaction in which ever room they entered. The mystery was solved for them only when they saw themselves in the mirror. Some younger ones, would get the shock of their life on seeing their own unrecognizable vistas in the mirror and get scared on encountering the stranger in the mirror 🙂
No one would get offended as motto of holi is #bura na mano holi hai. Mischief is allowed during this festival. Soon after stuffing ourselves with the delicacies, we would gather our colors, water balloons and water guns and apply coconut oil on our skin and hair to avoid any damage and to make the task of removing color after holi easier. And also, as the season is changing during this time, application of coconut oil is good for our body systems according to ayurveda.
We would go out in groups to our friends’ house and soak them in color to our heart’s content. In each house, there would be plates full of dahi wadas, chats and glasses full of cool thandai kept ready for us to recharge our battery before we attacked another group of friends with our colors. It seemed our energy reserves on holi day were beyond getting exhausted. We enjoyed the freedom of fun and mischief for along time and didnot stop till we were called by adults to do so, who were probably scared that we might catch a cold in our soaked clothes. But for us, there were no worries, only unstoppable fun and feast with friends and family. As the festival came only once a year, we waned to make the most of this time.Those are some of the memories i completely cherish whenever i go down memory lane. If i could have my way, i would have holi more often.
As the evening approached, and we had rested after taking the bath for removing layers of colors, the atmosphere would get reverberated with the sound of drums(dhols). It was now time for some dhol dance where we danced away with friends and cousins without a care in the world and enjoyed to the fullest.
Now we have to play it with some responsibility. As their is scarcity of water everywhere these days, it would be best to play dry holi to save water. It would be inhuman to waste precious water for our fun when scores of others are struggling even to get drinking water. I would request everyone to play their part at individual level to address this issue.
Please use herbal colors to play holi as they are safe for us as well as for the environment. chemical colors cause water pollution and are very harmful for ecological balance.