Holi – The Changing Colours!

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Holi – The Changing Colours!

Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain, rangon mein rang mil jaate hain, (Sholay, 1975) II

Phagun aayo, o masti laayo, Bhar ke maare pichkaari, rang leke, ho jung leke, Gaave jogi raatein jaagi saari, (Nadiya Ke Paar, 1982) II

O Hori Khele Raghuvira Hori Khele Raghuveeraa Avadh Mein Hori Khele Raghuveera (Baghban, 2003)……

These are the beautiful lines of the loveliest HOLI songs and these songs have different contexts – the first song is about getting together, loving and forgiving each other and enjoying the moment. The second song is about the season and timing and the third one is about Raghuvira, can be understood as Lord Krishna.

Holi is a Hindu spring festival also known as Basantotsav or the "festival of colours" or the "festival of love." It is now being celebrated in many other countries as Indians have been settled there. It is celebrated at the end of the winter season, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna. It is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm; people smear colours over each other. A common greeting during this time is, “Happy Holi.”

Spring-season songs (or Fagua geet) with musical instruments like dholak, kirtal, etc. are sung on this special day. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships. People get together, exchange gifts and sweets, eat special foods and ornate their houses. The celebrations start with bonfire and prayer on the eve of the festival and continue for a night and a day. The first evening is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi and the following day as Holi, Rangwali Holi, Dhuleti, Dhulandi, or Phagwah/Fagua. Holi also celebrates the immortal love of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna as well as the story of the Kama, the Hindu god of love, his incineration to death by Lord Shiva, restoration and his love and sacrifice for all.

Bhang has become an official drink on Holi. Bhang is a derivative of the dried leaves and flowering shoots of the female cannabis plant. It is most commonly consumed as thandai and also as a snack with other additives - such as ghee, sugar, milk. It’s tough to trace the time when and how bhang became associated with the festival but it has been stated that bhang was Lord Shiva’s nectar and because Holi is also celebrated as the immortal love of the divine couple, Radha and Krishna (Lord Vishnu) Lord Shiva, probably, would celebrate this by consuming bhang, and may dance too! In imitation of Shiva, many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states. Ancient as it is, bhang has become an inseparable part of Indian tradition.

It is said that the horse of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh Guru, refused to cross the tobacco fields and hence tobacco consumption is prohibited in Sikhism but we have other avenues - like as liquor, opium, etc. In Islam any kind of intoxicating beverages is prohibited, it is said greater harm in wine and gambling than the benefit (Al-Qur'an 2:219), but we have other options, for example, tobacco. In most Buddhist traditions, intoxicants are prohibited except for medicinal reasons. Quoting here this entire means we didn’t understand the spiritual message of all these great messengers of Almighty! That it’s not the substance they are talking about but it is intoxication (which later on turns into addiction) that one should avoid. We can look into history, for reference, for consequences of addiction for rich as well as for poor. Addiction is lieutenant colonel of battalions of problems – family and financial issues, social issues and psychological problems.

Though religion doesn’t promote the intoxication, youngsters overdo when it comes in terms of high feeling. People don’t restrict themselves to bhang only on this occasion; instead, they consume other kinds of intoxicants for example liquor, heroin, opiates and other drugs. Basically, we have different reasons and factors to overdo or even start or maintain using the addictive substance(s). For example, we have attached all kind of celebrations with this high feeling factor. The celebration is incomplete without peg(s) or puff or sniff, etc. We have different logics for this, for example, bhang is Nectar of Lord Shiva, in some cultures if liquor is not served, means one is not a good host! If you happen to be in several hilly areas you will find that people in the family share a common hookah, Bidi etc. In some areas of the country people, before opening their eyes in the morning, they fumble under their pillows for pouches of tobacco and then after putting in their mouths can get up and can go to pay for nature’s call.

Holi celebrations have become particularly unruly/ rowdy in India as social rules are relaxed. Social barriers are broken as people of all ages; genders, castes, and wealth gather together and celebrate the festival. In fact, one can get away with almost any kind of behaviour on this day just by saying “bura naa maano holi hai (don’t mind, it is Holi).” This conceptualization of the pious festive day has its dire consequences. According to NDTV report (March 02, 2018) Mumbai Police warned people about “Bura na mano Holi hai (Don't mind, it's Holi)" – they said “that's an excuse used far too frequently to pass off hooliganism (violent or rowdy behaviour by young troublemakers, typically in a gang) for Holi celebrations”. According to The Hindu (28 March, 2016) - “This Holi, Delhi Police’s control room received about 35,890 calls, against the daily average of 24,000 and action was taken in 18,480 of them,” the senior official in Delhi Police’s Operation wing said, adding that figures for total calls and action taken are the highest ever. Last Holi, around 27,000 persons had dialled 100, of which around 12,000 were distress calls. While PCR teams attended around 9,500 of them, the others were directly transferred to local police. Further, 11 cases of murder, 21 of rape and molestation, 211 eve-teasing cases, 46 instances of road rage, around 40 cases of shootout and firing, and 142 cases of stabbing were reported by dialling 100 on the day of Holi on March 24, according to the police data. According to NDTV report (March 02, 2018) over 9,300 fined for Traffic Violations, including over 1,900 for drunken driving in Delhi on Holi festive.

There are, in addition to psychological, cultural and religious factors which knowingly or unknowingly are responsible for addiction. The increasing rate of crime and intoxication on Holi festival is becoming a problem day every year. Splashes of crime and intoxication have contaminated the piousness of the festival, and this is not restricted to Holi only but we have associated every celebration with high feeling beverages and substances as if without these flavours celebrations are incomplete. We need to learn that LIFE IS A CELEBRATION itself or celebrating life and life events without addiction! Let’s not spoil our as well as someone else’s day….let it be really HAPPY HOLI for everyone this time! Happy Holi!

About the Author

Dr Balbinder Singh
Assistant Professor.

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