One festival that truly depicts the composite essence of not only India but the whole sub-continent is Holi. It’s not just a festival of colours, it’s a celebration of life in its totality. Every festival has a deeper message. Diwali dispels darkness and all evil forces. Holi fills our lives with colourful shades. It’s a festival of bonhomie and reconciliation when people embrace each other, forgetting all bitterness and ill-feelings. When French traveller Vernier came to India during the regime of Mughal emperor Shahjahaan, he was wonder-struck to see so many people play Holi.
They belonged to all streams and strata. This is the beauty of Holi. It dissolves all so-called social differences and brings people together. In fact, Holika dahan, a day before Dhulandi, symbolises the bonfire of all ill-feelings. It’s the message of egalitarianism that marks this festival and distinguishes it from others. Abul Fazl, one of the nine gems in Akbar’s court, wrote in Aine-Akbari (the book vividly describes Akbar and his times) that ‘Shanshah ust chee shudam aviyaar minhal mustambeer qabl-e-jashn-e-faam’ (the emperor began to collect pichkari of different sizes well before Holi). Akbar was very fond of Holi and he played this colourful festival with not only his courtiers, but he used to come out of his palace and play Holi with the masses. That was the day, even a commoner could put colours on the emperor of the undivided India!! Even a zealot like Aurangzeb, didn’t stop people from playing Holi on the streets. The spirit of Holi is just unsurpassable. It can only be felt and not described. Those, who have seen Holi of North, especially of UP, will always remember it. UP’s latthmaar Holi (women beat men with sticks in a light-hearted bantering) is a spectacle to behold. Once a teacher of mine described Holi as a festival of wholesomeness.
He philosophically analysed that on the day of Holi, we play with all sorts and shades of colours. There’re colours like grey, black and brown as well, apart from the vibrant red, pink, yellow and blue. This riot of colours delineates all hues of life. Life is at times, vibrant, effervescent and euphoric. Pink, green and yellow depict that state. Life’s also robust. Red symbolises that. But everyday is not Sunday. There’re sombre moments and sluggish phases in life as well. Colours like grey, black and brown manifest those lull periods. To quote Sahir Ludhianavi from Meri Pahali Holi : ‘Zindagi ke her rang ko chand lamhaat mein dekh liya/Meri Pahali Holi ne mujhe falsafana bana diya’ (I saw all colours of life in a few moments/ My very first Holi made me a philosopher). Beneath the veneer of colours and apparent boisterous bonhomie, Holi gives a message that with equipoise and equanimity should one face all the colours of life because different colours are different circumstances. I remember, a few years ago, I was in Lahore on the day of Holi.
Just a day before Holi, I asked my host Mr Mir Muhammad Khan, ‘Kya aap log Holi khelte hain?’ (Do you play Holi?). ‘Aap logon se zyada’ (more than you) pat came the reply from Mr Khan. He then delivered an edifying sermon on the significance of Holi and next day played it from dawn to dusk. He originally belonged to Patna, India and said that on every Holi, he relived and revived colour-filled memories of Holi of Bihar. It’s not for nothing, British philosopher Sir Aldous Huxley called Holi, ‘the sub-continent’s festival of festivals.’ It’s indeed the ‘sartaaj-e-jashn,’ festival of festivals. Let’s pledge to fill all lives with colours of love, understanding and friendliness and imbibe the essence of Holi to the hilt.
Shared By SUMIT PAUL (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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