Nothing compares to Holi. Did I hear Tomatina? Well, the similarity ends at the bright red from the surplus tomatoes… Indian Holi is here, coming this Monday and Covid better watch out! If not with the colours, it’s sure to be driven away from our soil post the merry jostling and huddles (public celebrations are still prohibited). It’s a festival to drive the evil away with colours- body n mind(?!) cleansing aka Indian Style… No holds barred rubbing in 😝of colours wet and dry followed by a tough time taking the colours off with every possible concoction from the kitchen. The highlight of the festival is ‘food par excellence’ in every household especially in the Northern part of the country. The towns of Mathura and Vrindavan add to the festival with the legendary tales of Lord Krishna and Radha n the stories of their Holi celebrations adding another dimension to it.
This ancient Hindu festival originated in the kingdom of notorious King Hiranyakashyap, who appointed his own sister Holika (who incidentally was fireproof due to a boon), to annihilate his own child Prahlad in fire as the child was professed to have been born to eradicate his father and his evil ways. But, the attempt of the aunt gets foiled with she getting burnt to death instead, and Prahlad getting saved by the Gods above. Holika misinterpreted the boon in her own overconfidence…
Even to this day, every household creates a bonfire the previous evening, with household junk,cowdung cakes, wood et al, n has a customary Holika Dahan ( lighting up the pier for Holika, the evil one) and the family and friends of the neighborhood pray for dispelling all evil. This of course sets the mood for the ensuing joyous celebrations of the next day with first half of the day spent in spraying colours, smearing colours and dunking others in water and colors and gorging on fantastic food, and evenings reserved for visiting elder relatives and friends to seek their blessings and again eat some more delectable food.
For me, Maal-puas ( eggless fried pancakes soaked in sugar syrup with generous garnish of dry fruits) epitomizes Holi. Even now, no Holi is complete without sinking my teeth in the delightful n sinful Maalpuas. Households add their own rich savoury items to the endless list of dishes and it’s food all around! No colour playing-visit is complete without the special delicacies and the exclusive Holi special drink …
Thandhai ( a mocktail/cocktail of dry fruits and milk with or without organic cannabis😎) is again as synonymous with Holi as egg is to Easter! This drink deserves a chapter instead of a line… It is a drink proffered to God Shiva who is supposed to have a special liking for it in his own rituals, and also taken as a sanctioned narcotic elixer during the festival . It has a large draw and fan following amongst the youth n the elderly alike, even sanctimonious aunties are allowed to partake of it on the sly 😀
And then comes the best part… the continued unending stupor– next day. Of colour, of cannabis (for some), of festivities and so much of binging on food n drinks!! People with leftover colours on their ears, elbow joints, napes etc proudly carry it to schools, colleges and office… till it gets washed off in several scrubbing bathing sessions. Homes would still be consuming leftovers and most of the family members would be wandering around with silly grins- part hangover part fond memories of colours!
Holi is celebrated on the full moon day in the Indian month of Phalgun. It is also called the Spring Festival, as it marks the arrival of spring… Wishing all of you love and happiness on this festival of colours 🙏