In Bengal, Holi has traditionally been celebrated as Dol Purnima of Sri Krishna and Radha, symbolising Spirit and Nature. This purnima is also associated with the birth anniversary of Sri Chaitanya, the prominent Bengali mystic of the medieval Bhakti cult who flooded Bengal with devotional fervour.
Rabindranath Tagore transformed the traditional ritual into a secular spring festival, or Basantotsab, for all, and in the same way it is celebrated in Shantiniketan.
He composed a number of songs for this occasion in which colour has been perceived as the amazing mood-changing diversity of nature. The traditional herbal colours have a lot of preventive medicinal elements in them.
The colours made from neem, turmeric, sandalwood, mehendi, beetroot, amla, hibiscus, etc, have useful medicinal properties very much needed during this season.
In north India, the legend of Holika is quite popular where it is assumed that the festival is named after Holika, the cruel sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu who tried to kill his own son who was devoted to God. Krishna symbolises Spirit while Radha symbolises Nature.
The Spirit takes no other hue and is immutable, while Nature is diverse, colourful and mutable. Krishna and Radha represent cosmic play of Spirit and Nature dancing together in enjoyment. Holi is essentially a holistic socio-cultural celebration with spirit of friendship and harmony. It celebrates ultimate victory of good over evil and reminds us of the eternal play of love between Creator and creation or Spirit and Nature.
The news of various offensive fluids in balloons being flung at women in a Delhi college in the week preceding the festival of Holi brings up the unsavoury side of the festival yet again. Throwing water balloons at unsuspecting passers-by is problematic as it is; but to fling body fluids in balloons at women must be seen as a new low in the already despicable record of street-side violence against women in the country. Under the guise of celebration, it cannot be seen as acceptable to assault people, without a modicum of respect for their wishes.
This attitude, highly prevalent in north India around the festival of colours, must change. Not only is it emotionally traumatic for office goers, students, and others on the road to be pelted with coloured water-filled balloons (and whatever else certain miscreants decide to fill in them), it can cause physical injuries.
Women have complained of increasing instances of groping and other forms of sexual assault as Holi is celebrated. It should be made clear that using the oft-quoted ‘bura na maano holi hai (don’t mind it’s holi) refrain as an excuse to misbehave, especially with women, has no place in civilised society.
What is supposed to be a festival, celebrating the arrival of spring by spraying friends and family with colour and water has become something of a nightmare for many people. Given that most of the colours that are used are filled with toxic chemicals and heavy metals and even mica (dry powders often contain mica, which can cause micro cuts on the skin, making it more susceptible to allergens and other infections), it is time citizens learnt to be mindful of others in their surroundings.
Police and governments must take steps to ensure that miscreants are appropriately chastened for their misbehaviour; and citizens must ensure that they behave with respect towards those who choose not to play Holi.
For only then can it be a festival that some of us don’t have to dread every year. (From Times of India)
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