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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holi Festival

Holi Festival


Indian Holi Festival

Holi, or Holli (Sanskrit: होली), is a spring religious festival celebrated by Hindus. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka,[1] and countries with large Indic diaspora populations, such as Suriname, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, United Kingdom, United States, Mauritius, and Fiji. In West Bengal and Orissa of India it is known as Dolyatra (Doul Jatra) or Basanta-Utsav ("spring festival"). The most celebrated Holi is that of the Braj region, in locations connected to the god Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana. These places have become tourist destinations during the festive season of Holi, which lasts here to up to sixteen days.[2]

The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli Vandana in Sanskrit,also Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing coloured powder and coloured water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion. Holika Dahan is referred to as Kama Dahanam in South India.

Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), (Phalgun Purnima), which usually falls in the later part of February or March. In 2009, Holi (Dhulandi) was on March 11 and Holika Dahan was on March 10. In 2010, Holi was on March 1 and Holika Dahan was on February 28.

Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colours.


Significance



In Vaishnava Theology, Hiranyakashipu is the great king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed "during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra". Consequently, he grew arrogant and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.

Despite this, Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu's attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of his demoness sister, Holika, who could not die because she also had a boon which would prevent fire from burning her. Prahlada readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed, the burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.
Later Lord Vishnu came in the form of a Narasimha (who is half-man and half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra).

In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi) in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark skin complexion and Radha's (Shakti or energy that drives the world) fair skin complexion. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

There is alternative story detailing the origin of Holi. This story is about Kamadeva, a god of love. Kama's body was destroyed when he shot his weapon at Shiva in order to disrupt his meditation and help Parvati to marry Shiva. Shiva then opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kama's body was reduced to ashes. For the sake of Kama's wife Rati (passion), Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and spiritual state of love rather than physical lust. The Holi bonfire is believed to be celebrated in commemoration of this event.
Rituals of Holi


he earliest textual reference to the celebration of Holi is found in the 7th century Sanskrit drama, Ratnavali.[3] Certainly there are perennial rituals attached to Holi: the first is smearing of coloured powder on each other, and throwing coloured and scented water at each other using pichkaris (shaped like giant syringes or squirt guns). Though the festival really begins many days in advance, with 'Holi Milan' or Baithaks, musical soirees, where songs related to the festival, and the epic love story of Radha Krishna are sung; a special type of folk songs, known as "Hori," are sung as well. Some classical ones like Aaj biraj mein Holi re rasiya have been traditional for many generations.
Food preparations also begin many days in advance, with assemblage of gujia, papads, kanji [4] and various kinds of snack items including malpuas, mathri, puran poli, and dahi badas, which are served to Holi guests. The night of Holi, the baithak take turns churning bhang (cannabis) into intoxicating milk shakes and they make sweet laddoos mixed with bhang.
Holika Dahan: The Holi bonfire



The main emphasis of the festival is on the burning of the holy fire or Holika. The origin of the traditional lighting of Holi is attributed by some to the burning of demonesses like Holika, Holaka and Putana who represent evil, or to the burning of Madan according to others.

Traditionally a bonfire on the day of Holi, marks the symbolic annihilation of Holika the demoness as described above.[3]

This is akin to other festivals where effigies are burned, such as Ravana Dahan on Vijayadashami (Dusshera) day or those in many other religions across the world, signifying the end of dark or demonic forces. With Holika Dahan, the effigy has now all but vanished or is only present in a symbolic form, except in a few areas in the Braja region, where effigies are still seen on street corners and public squares, piled on top of assembled wood. This is set fire to after ritualistic worship, and people make pradakshina of the bonfire. The next day this victory is celebrated as the day of Dulhendi.

In some practices, particularly in the UK, coconuts are thrown into the fire and then pulled out. The burnt husk of the coconut represents Holika who died in the pyre. The white inside represents Prahlad, who was still alive and unaffected by the pyre. The pyre is also known as a mark of the Sanskrit transition, which was called Ranaara 0.


Dulhendi

Principal ingredients of the celebration are Abeer and Gulal, in all possible colours. Next comes squirting of coloured water using pichkaris. Coloured water is prepared using Tesu flowers, which are first gathered from the trees, dried in the sun, and then ground up, and later mixed with water to produce orange-yellow coloured water. Another traditional Holi item now rarely seen is a red powder enclosed in globes of Lakh, which break instantly and cover the party with the powder.[5]
Regional rituals and celebrations

Dol-Purnima, the festival of colour is celebrated with great festivity and joy. On this day, people come out wearing pure white clothes and gather together in a common place where they play it with gay abandon.
India



Barsana is the place to be at the time of Holi. Here the famous Lath mar Holi is played in the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple. Thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj Bhasha.

Holi played at Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called lathis to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields.

In Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, and in Vrindavan this day is celebrated with special puja and the traditional custom of worshipping Lord Krishna, here the festival last for sixteen days.[2] All over the Braj region and its nearby places like Hathras, Aligarh, Agra the Holi is celebrated in more or less same way as in Mathura, Vrindavan and Barsana.

In Gorakhpur, the northeast district of Uttar Pradesh, this day is celebrated with special puja in the morning of Holi day. This day is considered to be the happiest and colorful day of the year promoting the brotherhood among the people. This is known as "Holi Milan" in which people visit every house and sing holi song and express their gratitude by applying colored powder (Abeer). Holi is also considered as the end of the year as it occurs on the last day of last Hindu calendar month Phalgun. People also kickoff for the next year planning with new year Hindu calendar (Panchang) at the evening of Holi.
Kumaon, (Uttarakhand)
The uniqueness of the Kumaoni Holi of the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand lies in its being a musical affair, whichever may be its form, be it the Baithki Holi, the Khari Holi and the Mahila Holi which starts from Basant Panchmi. The Baithki Holi and Khari Holi are unique in that the songs on which they are based have touch of melody, fun and spiritualism. These songs are essentially based on classical ragas. No wonder then the Baithki Holi is also known as Nirvan Ki Holi.

The Baithki Holi (बैठकी होली) begins from the premises of temples, where Holiyars (होल्यार), (the singers of Holi songs) as also the people gather to sing songs to the accompaniment of classical music.

Kumaonis are very particular about the time when the songs based on ragas should be sung. For instance, at noon the songs based on Peelu, Bhimpalasi and Sarang ragas are sung while evening is reserved for the songs based on the ragas like Kalyan, Shyamkalyan and Yaman etc.

The Khari Holi (खड़ी होली), is mostly celebrated in the rural areas of Kumaon. The songs of the Khari Holi are sung by the people, who sporting traditional white churidar payajama and kurta, dance in groups to the tune of ethnic musical instruments like the Dhol and Hurka.

The Holika made is known as Cheer (चीर) which is ceremonically made in a ceremony known as Cheer Bandhan (चीर बंधन) fifteen days before Dulhendi. The Cheer is a bonfire with a green Paiya tree branch in the middle. The Cheer of every village and mohalla is rigorously guarded as rival mohallas try to steal the others cheer.

Dulhendi known as Chharadi (छरड़ी), in Kumaoni (from Chharad (छरड़), or natural colours made from flower extracts, ash and water) is celebrated with great gusto much in the same way as all across North India.[6]
Bihar
Holi is celebrated with the same fervour and charm in Bihar as in rest of north India. It is known as Phagwa in the local Bhojpuri dialect. Here too, the legend of Holika is prevalent. On the eve of Phalgun Poornima, people light bonfires. They put dung cakes, wood of Araad or Redi tree and Holika tree, grains from the fresh harvest and unwanted wood leaves in the bonfire. Following the tradition people also clean their houses for the day.

At the time of Holika people assemble near the fire. The eldest member or a purohit initiates the lighting. He then smears others with colour as a mark of greeting. Next day the festival is celebrated with colours and lot of frolic.

Children and youths take extreme delight in the festival. Though the festival is usually played with colours at some places people also enjoy playing holi with mud. Folk songs are sung at high pitch and people dance to the tune of dholak and the spirit of Holi.

Intoxicating bhang is consumed with a variety of mouth watering delicacies such as pakoras and thandai to enhance the mood of the festival. Vast quantities of liquor are consumed alongside ganja and bhang, which is sometimes added to foodstuffs.
Bengal
On the Dol Purnima day in the early morning, the students dress up in saffron-coloured clothes and wear garlands of fragrant flowers. They sing and dance to the accompaniment of musical instruments like ektara, dubri, veena, etc. Holi is known by the name of 'Dol Jatra', 'Dol Purnima' or the 'Swing Festival'. The festival is celebrated in a dignified manner by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin which is then taken round the main streets of the city or the village. The devotees take turns to swing them while women dance around the swing and sing devotional songs. During these activities, the men keep spraying coloured water and coloured powder, abir, at them.

The head of the family, observes fast and prays to Lord Krishna and Agnidev. After all the traditional rituals are over, he smears Krishna's idol with gulal and offers "bhog" to both Krishna and Agnidev.

In Shantiniketan, Holi has a special musical flavor.

Traditional dishes include malpoa, kheer sandesh, basanti sandesh (saffron), saffron milk, payash, and related foods.
Orissa
The people of Orissa celebrate Holi in a similar manner but here the idols of Jagannath, the deity of the Jagannath Temple of Puri, replace the idols of Krishna and Radha.
Goa
Holi is a part of Goan or Konkani spring festival known as Śigmo or शिगमो in Koṅkaṇī. One of the most prominent festivals of the Konkani community in Goa, and the Konkani diaspora in the state of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala. Śigmo is also known as Śiśirotsava and lasts for about a month. The color festival or Holi is a part of entire spring festival celebrations.[7]

Holi festivities(but not Śigmo festivities), include:Holika Puja and Dahan,Dhulvad or Dhuli vandan,Haldune or offering yellow and saffron colour or Gulal to the deity.
Main article: Shigmo
Gujarat
Holi is celebrated with great fanfare in the Indian state of Gujarat. Falling on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna, Holi is a major Hindu festival and marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop.

A bonfire is lit in the main squares of the villages and colonies. People gather around the bonfire and celebrate the event with singing and dancing, which is symbolic of the victory of good over evil. Tribals of Gujarat celebrate Holi with great enthusiasm and also dance around the fire.

In Western India, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets and young boys try to reach it and break it by making human pyramids. The girls try to stop them by throwing colored water on them to commemorate the pranks of Krishna and cowherd boys to steal butter and 'gopis' while trying to stop the girls. The boy who finally manages to break the pot is crowned the Holi King. Afterwards, the men, who are now very colorful men, go out in a large procession to "alert" people of the Krishna's possible appearance to steal butter from their homes.

In some places, there is a custom in the undivided Hindu families that the women of the families beat their brother-in-law with her sari rolled up into a rope in a mock rage as they try to drench them with colours, and in turn, the brothers-in-law bring sweetmeats to her in the evening.
Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, Holi is mainly associated with the burning of Holika. Holi Paurnima is also celebrated as Shimga. A week before the festival, youngsters go around the community, collecting firewood and money. On the day of Holi, the firewood is arranged in a huge pile at a clearing in the locality. In the evening, the fire is lit. Every household makes an offering of a meal and desert to the fire god. Puran Poli is the main delicacy and children shout "Holi re Holi puranachi poli". Shimga is associated with the elimination of all evil. The color celebrations here traditionally take place on the day of Rangapanchami, unlike in North India where it is done on the second day itself.During this festival, people are supposed to forget about any rivalries for the day.
Manipur
Manipuris celebrate Holi for six days. Here, this hoiday merges with the centuries-old festival of Yaosang. Traditionally, the festival commences with the burning of a thatched hut of hay and twigs. Young children go from house to house to collect money, locally known as nakadeng (or nakatheng), as gifts on the first two days. The youths at night perform a group folk dance called 'thaabal chongba' on the full moon night of Lamta (Phalgun) along with folk songs and rhythmic beats of the indigenous drum. However, this moonlight party now has modern bands and fluorescent lamps. In Krishna temples, devotees sing devotional songs, perform dances and play with aber (gulal) wearing traditional white and yellow turbans. On the last day of the festival, large processions are taken out to the main Krishna temple near Imphal where several cultural activities are held. Since the past few decades Yaoshang, a type of Indian sport, has become common in many places of the valley, where people of all ages come out to participate in a number of sports that are somewhat altered for the holiday.






Kerala
In the Mattancherry area of Kochi, there are 22 different communities living together in harmony. The Gaud Sarawat Brahmins (GSB) who speak Konkani also celebrate Holi in Cherlai area of West Kochi instead of in theior own community. It is locally called Ukkuli in Konkani or Manjal Kuli in Malayalam. It is celebrated around the Konkani temple called Gosripuram Thirumala temple. Holi is also celebrated at some colleges in south.
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh
Holi is celebrated with much fervor here. Unlike in the other Indian communities, it is also here a school holiday. There is also a tradition followed in rural Karnataka where children collect money and wood for weeks prior to Holi, and on Kamadhana night all the wood is put together and lit. The festival is celebrated for two days. People in north Karnataka prepare special food on this day. In Andhra Pradesh Holi is celebrated along with Basnata Panchami. In the Telangana region,especially the capital city of Hyderabad, Holi is a major festival, and the festivities and color starts appearing at least a day before the actual holiday.
Kashmir
In Kashmir, the Indian security forces (police) celebrate Holi as well. Holi celebrations here pretty much fit the general definition of Holi celebrations: a high-spirited festival to mark the beginning of the harvesting of the summer crop, is marked by the throwing of colored water and powder and singing and dancing.
Haryana, Rural Delhi & West UP
This region has its own variety of Holi. The festival is celebrated with great jest and enthusiasm. Dhampur is a city and a municipal board in the Bijnor district in the state of Uttar Pradesh of India. The Holi celebration in Dhampur is famous throughout the whole of Western UP.
Punjab
There is a Sikh festival of Hola Mohalla, which falls on the next day.[8] [9]
Dhampur
In Dhampur holi—holi hawan jaloos have been organized for the last 60 years. The festival involves almost 10,000 people, including lots of bands and Jhakhi, which represent the cultural values of Holi and India.
Indian diaspora

Over the years, Holi has become an important festival in many regions wherever Indian diaspora had found its roots, be it in Africa, North America, Europe and closer to home in South Asia.[10
Nepal



In Nepal, Holi is regarded as one of the greatest festivals, as important as Dashain (also known as Dussehra in India) and Tihar or Dipawali (also known asDiwali in India). Since more than 80% of people in Nepal are Hindus,[11] Holi, along with many other Hindu festivals, is celebrated in Nepal as a national festival and almost everyone celebrates it regardless of their religion, e.g., even Muslims celebrate it. Christians may also join in, although since Holi falls during Lent, many would not join in the festivities. The day of Holi is also a national holiday in Nepal.

People walk down their neighbourhoods to celebrate Holi by exchanging colours and spraying coloured water on one another. A popular activity is the throwing of water balloons at one another, sometimes called lola (meaning water balloon).[12] Also a lot of people mix bhang in their drinks and food, as also done during Shivaratri. It is believed that the combination of different colours played at this festival take all the sorrow away and make life itself more colourful.
Traditional Holi



The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fever and cold. The playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance: the colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors.

A special drink called thandai is prepared (commonly made of almonds, pistachios, rose petals, etc.), sometimes containing bhang (Cannabis indica). For wet colours, traditional flowers of Palash are boiled and soaked in water over night to produced yellow coloured water, which also had medicinal properties. Unfortunately the commercial aspect of celebration has led to an increase in the use of synthetic colours which, in some cases, may be toxic.
Modern Issues


Synthetic Colors



As the spring-blossoming trees that once supplied the colors used to celebrate Holi have become more rare, chemically produced industrial dyes have been used to take their place in almost all of urban India. In 2001, a fact sheet was published by the groups Toxics link and Vatavaran based in Delhi on the chemical dyes used in the festival.[13] They found safety issues with all three forms in which the Holi colors are produced: pastes, dry colors and water colors.

Their investigation found some toxic chemicals with some potentially severe health impacts. The black powders were found to contain lead oxide which can result in renal failure. Two colors were found to be carcinogenic: silver, with aluminium bromide, and red, with mercury sulphide. The prussian blue used in the blue powder has been associated with contact dermatitis, while the copper sulphate in the green has been documented to cause eye allergiese, puffiness of the eyes, or temporary blindness.[14]
The colorant used in the dry colors, also called gulals, was found to be toxic, with heavy metals causing asthma, skin diseases and temporary blindness. Both of the commonly used bases—asbestos or silica—are associated with health issues.[15]

They reported that the wet colors might lead to skin discolouration and dermatitis due to their use of color concentrate gentian violet.

Lack of control over the quality and content of these colours is a problem, as they are frequently sold by vendors who do not know their origin.

The report galvanized a number of groups into promoting more natural celebrations of Holi. Development Alternatives, Delhi and Kalpavriksh,[16] Pune, The CLEAN India campaign[17] and Society for Child Development, through its Avacayam Cooperative Campaign [3] have both launched campaigns to help children learn to make their own colours for Holi from safer, natural ingredients. Meanwhile, some commercial companies such as the National Botanical Research Institute have begun to market "herbal" dyes, though these are substantially more expensive than the dangerous alternatives. However, it may be noted that many parts of rural India have always resorted to natural colours (and other parts of festivities more than colours) due to availability reasons.
Environmental Impact


An alleged environmental issue related to the celebration of Holi is the traditional Holika Dahan bonfire, which is believed to contribute to deforestation. A local tabloid had a view published that 30,000 bonfires each burning approximately 100 kg of wood are lit in one season.[18] Several methods of preventing this consumption of wood have been proposed, including the replacement of wood with waste material or lighting of a single fire per community, rather than multiple smaller fires. However, the idea of lighting waste material antagonizes large sections of a certain community who take it as a Western attack to their cultures and traditions citing several examples of similar festivities elsewhere. There is also concern about the large scale wastage of water and water-pollution due to synthetic colors during Holi celebration.
Influence on Popular Culture


In the music video for their song "The Catalyst.", American rock band Linkin Park incorporated scenes of band members throwing powdered color at one another. The videos director, band turntablist Joe Hahn, identifies Holi as a direct influence on the visual style of the video.[19] Hahn states that "The irony of making the video was that the inspiration for the colors came from the Color Festival in India called Holi." Mr Hahn further elaborates on the religious significance of the colors, "People collect these pigments throughout the year to release them in this festival as a celebration of life and tribute to Vishnu."[19]

Rituals from the celebration of Holi are not Linkin Park's only allusion to Hinduism. The song "The Catalyst" is the first single from the bands fourth studio album, A Thousand Suns. The title of the album references when J. Robert Oppenheimer famously recalled the Bhagavad Gita after watching the detonation of the first nuclear weapon: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One— I am become Death, the shatterer of Worlds." [20]

The holi festival was featured as a RoadBlock challenge in the popular CBS reality elevision show The Amazing Race 13, episode 7.

The Ke$ha music video for the song "Take It Off" features powdered colored dyes similar to those used to celebrate Holi.[21]

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