Shyam aaye, Holi celebrated

17 Mar 2014, Amritapuri

As she does on every Monday when she is in Amritapuri, Amma came to meditate on the Ayurveda beach in the afternoon. After the meditation, as it was the Holi celebration day, she asked devotees to explain the meaning of the special festival, the festival of colours.

As soon as the devotee finished his explanation, other devotees came to Amma with a tray full of colours. He gently dabbed Amma’s cheek with a sandal colour powder. A few others joined too, smearing Amma’s face with different colours: pink, yellow, green, orange, blue… Amma was beaming with joy with a mischievous smile, as “Mata Rani Ki.. Jai” was called out.

She started too in return smearing the faces of everyone around her with different colours. Everyone’s face was lit up with joy.

Amma was then handed a ‘pichkari’, filled it with colored water, and out went the streams of colored water, spraying on the faces around.

Amma sang ‘Ayi he holi’, with everyone joining in and clapping joyfully… Another memorable special time with her, was stored in the hearts and souls of all present.

– Kannadi

Amma celebrates Holi

28 Mar 2012, Kochi – Bharata Yatra

Amma celebrated Holi with her children in Kochi.
She distributed prasad, had satsang, jokes, bhajans and played Holi to the delight of all the devotees assembled there.

Amma’s second leg of Bharata Yatra kicked off with the Ernakulam program, following on the heels of Amma’s visits to Reunion Island, Mauritius and Singapore.

A unique feature of the Ernakulam program is that it is held near to Amma’s AIMS Hospital and Medical College, and is actually held on the campus of Amrita University’s School of Arts and Sciences. Therefore, there are a great number of students, devotees and sevaites in the area, and all come together for the programs. There is a pervasive and beautiful feeling of seva and love throughout.

The day Amma arrived, some of the tour group members prepared dinner and brought it to the roof of Amma’s school, expecting Amma to come up to the roof and serve the tour group. However the school grounds were filled to overflowing with devotees overcome with devotional fervor. By turns they were chanting archanas and singing bhajans with great enthusiasm.

When Amma emerged from her room, she began to make her way to the roof but soon she turned around made her way down, directly into throng of devotees sanding below. She walked through the crowd and onto the stage, which was still under construction getting ready for the following day’s program.

The tour group scrambled to catch up with Amma, carrying all the many pots of food from the roof of the school down the four flights to the ground and then onto the stage. Within seconds, Amma was serving food to the gathered throngs.

Many wondered that if they were witnessing a quiet miracle. After all, the devotees had been expected only for the following day, and the food had been prepared only for the tour group. However, even though the darshan hall was filled to overflowing, and Amma’s serving seemed to go on forever as plate after plate passed lovingly through her hands, each and every person got a full plate of prasad – kanji, curry, lime pickle and a fresh chapatti. After distributing Prasad and praying together with her children, Amma proceeded to talk casually with her children, creating an intimate family atmosphere.

She also passed a microphone into the crowd and asked her children to share jokes and stories with a spiritual message. Then Amma began to sing, wrapping with ‘Aye He Holi’ and joyfully celebrating Holi with her children, playfully spraying colored water onto her children, and… getting plenty on herself in the process.

-Kannadi

Amma plays Holi in Amritapuri

8 Mar 2012, Amritapuri

Thursday night as darshan ended, the Holi celebration began at Amritapuri. Just before the end of darshan a devotee presented Amma with a bowl of colored powder and a bucket of water and a ‘pichkari’ (elongated water pistol). Amma mixed the colors into the bucket of water and then she filled the pichkari with the colored water. She slowly pointed the pichkari at many people on stage before she started spraying colors on everybody on the stage. She put colored powder on those sitting just next to the chair and squirted water on all sides.

While she was doing this she started singing “Ayi He Holi” – meaning, Holi has come, the water pistols are filled up with coloured water…
Some devotees stood up and started dancing in the hall. The entire atmosphere was surcharged with joy as Amma sprayed more colors and threw the dry powder on everyone. A small amount of color was then carefully applied on Amma’s face by a young devotee. Amma then sang one more song “Vraj Me Aisa” meaning – At Vraj (Vrindavan) there was such an excitement as Krishna on his way to Ras (Raasa Leela dance with the Gopis).. and the whole hall erupted with joy. During that bhajan Amma repeating one particular line again and again.. ‘ Kanha ek, gopi anek,’ meaning, Krishna is one, and the Gopis are many, pointing to all around her as she sang…

Kanha ek gopi anek
kis ke sang vo rachayenge ras?…
Shyam ke ye leela ko dekh
Vo hai Kade har Gopi ke pas.

While singing and dancing sitting on her seat, Amma continued throwing colored powder around and spraying water. When she finally left the stage, her sari was fully covered in pink colors. And just before going up the steps to her room, one final time she turned back and sprayed colored water on those standing below her after a boy loaned her his small water pistol.

After Amma returned to her room there was plenty of colored powder and water which had not yet been used, so the joyous atmosphere continued as the devotees began their own Holi play and started smearing powder on each other, until there was no powder left to smear and everyone went to back to their rooms covered in colors.

– Kannadi

A colorful flowerful Holi

7 March, Jaipur– Bharata Yatra 2010

With Amma, celebration of colors is a daily event and every day is a holi. It is up to us to make the best of this daily celebration. That was exactly what happened at Jaipur. The house where Amma stayed  became a place for Holi  celebration. When Amma was starting out to Delhi from Jaipur, around 70 members of the family gathered around her. They requested to sing and play holi with her. Amma was asked to sit on a chair. There was singing already in the air, energized with the accompaniment of dolaks and manjeera (kaimani).

With the full spirit of celebration, the girls around Amma started dancing to the tunes of ‘radhe radhe radhe’. The mother of the house, a very elderly lady, joined the festivities to the thrill of everyone around by coming to the forefront, dancing in front of Amma and then holding Amma’s hands as she danced to the tune.

As the girls danced and swirled around, Amma asked for manjeera and started playing it, leading the festivities.  As the tempo increased, devotees  started showering colorful flowers on Amma, coloring the area yellow, rose, dark yellow. Amma was enjoying every minute of it as the cheer grew louder. The cheer became shouts of “holi, holi, holi”.  The owner of the house and his daughter started dancing, holding Amma’s hands, reminding us all of the beautiful play between Lord Krishna and the gopis.

As the event calmed down, more flowers showered on Amma and added colorful beauty. This very family had celebrated Holi with Amma some years ago. But this year, the day with Amma became their Holi.

–Kannadi

A Holi in Mumbai

28 Feb – 1 Mar, Nerul, Mumbai — Bharata Yatra 2009

During the two days of the brahmastanam temple festival in Nerul, New Mumbai, large numbers of devotees flocked to the ashram to receive Amma’s darshan and participate in the satsang, bhajans, dhyan and special puja led by Amma.

One important factor for the great success of the Nerul programme was the large number of AYUDH volunteers who helped out in nearly every area of the programme. Over 100 youngsters worked day and night in the chappal stall, dish washing, recycling, puja setup and crowd control. In order to make Amma’s programme more eco-friendly, the youth banned the use of all plastic bags in the chappal stall, saving at least 5,000 bags from being wasted.  Instead, they provided reusable eco-friendly cloth bags.
Also the trash management was run by the youngsters. They separated the trash and used all food waste to create organic manure which soon will be utilized in the ashram’s garden.

As it was the day of Holi, everyone was eagerly waiting for the moment when Amma would start the play.  At the end of the last programme, the devotees brought a pichkari (water pistol) to Amma so that she could spray everyone with coloured water. With a mischievous smile, Amma charged the water pistol again and again to create maximum impact all around her.

The celebration was ignited by Amma singing three bhajans, amongst them “Mata Rani.” The music was accompanied by a djembe, an African drum, which gave the songs an extra punch. Even though the Nerul stage is very small, the devotees used every inch of space around Amma to get a glimpse of her playing the game. Everyone’s faces lit up with the colours of joy, exhileration and amazement while watching Amma in this wonderful mood. Endlessly, the devotees kept on shouting “Mata Rani Ki Jai.”
Even after Amma left the stage no one seemed tired. The devotees continued to throw coloured powder around until the whole ashram and all those staying there were covered in all shades of the rainbow.
Happy Holi to all.

-Kannadi

Leaving Jaipur with flying colours

15 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan –Bharata Yatra 2006

Initially we thought we were going to leave Jaipur before sunrise, but then word came that we would not be leaving until after noon. With the tour’s rigorous schedule, I was happy to be able to sleep in. However, myself and others were concerned that we were setting ourselves up for a colourful Holi attack.

Eight buses, several of them full of Westerners, driving through Jaipur in broad daylight would appear to be a prime target for any Holi revellers. I had heard that on previous tours powder had been tossed at the buses and some Westerners had been hit through opened windows. Regardless of how symbolic the throwing of powdered paints may be, when you’re tired after being up all night, facing a five-hour bus ride, and wearing your only clean pair of white clothes, your enthusiasm to celebrate is greatly diminished.

In the early morning, the streets seemed quiet. We were in a quiet part of town, and I felt that not much would happen. Anyway, the school in which we were staying was protected like a fortress with a high boundary wall. To get in and out, you had to pass through an iron gate. All we had to do was load the buses, which were just outside the gate, board quickly and close the windows.

But as it got later, I began to hear the banging of drums, cheering and voices in Hindi singing various songs. It wasn’t coming from right outside, but it was too close for comfort. No matter, at least had our fortress to protect us.

However, around 11 a.m.—just when we had to start loading the buses—a band of young Indian ladies, covered from head to toe in varying hues and carrying bags of powdered paint, apparently realized they could capitalize on our predicament. Unable to resist the large number of potential targets inside the school, they decided to position themselves just outside the gate and wait for us to emerge with our bags. Then the Ashram bus drivers (who are from Kerala) started to play Holi. We could hear the antics of the drivers, the locals and the young women in the streets.

Since we had to eventually leave for Delhi, some of my fellow Westerners began to brave the gauntlet and headed outside with their bags. They were quickly ambushed by the women, and many of them came back with green and red streaks of powdered paint in their hair and on their clothes. Some were a bit annoyed, others slightly miffed. No one really seemed able to embrace the revellry.

Most of us remained inside the safety of the school, hoping to wait out the celebration and thereby protect our white dhotis and saris. Some openly enjoyed watching their fellow Westerners get painted. But eventually everyone had to go outside.

When I headed out, I tried to explain to the ladies that I was a foreigner and therefore should be spared, telling them that I did not really understand the meaning of Holi in the first place. I begged them to have mercy on myself and all the other Westerners. But it was like trying to tell a child not to trick-or-treat on Halloween or to not light firecrackers on Independence Day. We settled on a consolation—one of them could paint a small green tilak on my forehead. I figured that the small gesture would indicate that I had already “played Holi” and that I would then be spared of any future onslaughts. I was wrong. No sooner had the tilak been applied then the woman’s hand slid down the right side of my face and I was stained in bright green and orange. Now I was apparently fair game. Being chased by the women, I ran into the safety of the school, only to find that those Westerners who had already been painted were now running after each other with coloured powder of their own. Many had to retreat further into the school for safety.

While the Westerners were playing cat-and-mouse with the band of Indian ladies and each other, a few of the brahmacharis who had also been hit obtained some colours of their own and started to turn on one another. Many people got hit. Some cheered, others ran and hid. After about an hour like this, the band of ladies apparently became satisfied that they had accomplished their mission and departed.

When we finally boarded the buses, we all rolled up our windows. As we drove through Jaipur, I saw hundreds of people covered with colours. We passed motorcycle after motorcycle of two, three, even four, people covered from head to toe in colours. Men, women, children and drivers—no one seemed to have been spared. I even saw some dogs and cows sporting paint. But eventually the colours of the city gave way to the fields of the country. Relieved, I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Around sunset, when we were maybe two hours from Delhi, we pulled over to stop for tea and to spend some time with Amma. Almost everyone who had thought they’d made a clean Holi getaway was wrong. After Amma sat down in the field—with all of us around her—someone offered her a couple packets of powdered paint. To make a long story short, she blessed us in true Holi style. I was ecstatic. I was sitting almost right in front of Amma. With a beaming smile, she showered fistfuls of colours on all of us. Soon I had bright florescent-orange and pink paint staining my clothes. Whereas earlier I was running from the Indian ladies at the school, here I was eager to have Amma throw powder at me. Then, as I watched Amma paint the face of a woman devotee sitting next to her, I wanted to leap up and ask her to do the same to me. It was such a blissful and joyous celebration.

Sitting in front of Amma, covered with powder, it occurred to me that the fortress-like school we had stayed in back in Jaipur could be likened to the ego. We spend countless lifetimes in such a fortress. One can hide behind it for as long as they want, but as long as one does, he or she is never truly able to join the celebration of life. By throwing powder on us, Amma was tearing down the walls of our ego, encouraging us to become a celebration of the Divine Truth that is our real nature.

It’s a scary proposition, but once we allow the wall to come down—and allow the Guru to paint us with his teachings and his grace—we realize what fools we were to have been hiding.

What a beautiful way to learn the meaning of Holi.

-Sri Pati

 

holi

Painting minds with the colour of love: Amma celebrates Holi

15 March, 2006 – Jaipur, Rajasthan, and the Rajasthan–Haryana border on NH7

Holi is mainly a North Indian tradition. As such, in Amma’s youth she never threw about the celebratory powdered paints as people do in places like Mumbai, Jaipur and Delhi. And even though Amma has been in the North during Holi almost every year since 1985, she had never joined in…. But there is a first time for everything.

This year, Amma was in Jaipur on the holiday. Her programme there finished around 4:00 Holi morning, and Amma then returned to the devotees’ house where she was staying. The brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees travelling with Amma also returned to their accommodation at a nearby school.

Around 11:00 a.m. Amma came down to the living room where all the members of the joint-family household were waiting. The devotees requested Amma to sit on a couch and then began singing their favourite traditional Holi songs to her. They also played the harmonium and kept time on large hand cymbals. Holi is a very popular festival in Jaipur, and the family was obviously in bliss to be able to have their beloved Amma in their home for the occasion. The joy of the family reflected on Amma’s face, and she soon began to clap along enthusiastically to their bhajans.

After a few songs, the head of the house approached Amma with a tiny, silver pichkari [water-pump gun] and a finger bowl of sandal-paste water—the perfect squirter and “paint” for a refined and reserved Holi celebration. Amma picked up the pichkari, drew up some sandal-paste water and, to the delight of the devotees, began squirting them as they sang.

After some time a second offering was made to Amma—a tray carrying generous piles of green, orange, red and pink powdered paint. Would Amma take things up a notch?

Try ten.

Grabbing handful after handful of powder, Amma began tossing the colours around, hitting everyone, young and old alike. The beautiful living room was soon consumed in a massive cloud of colours.

When the fog cleared, the family began playing more bhajans, and Amma clapped hands with various members of the family to the beat. As the music raised in tempo, the men, women and children all began dancing. This inspired Amma to throw another round of colours and, eventually, to begin dancing herself. At the end of one song, the devotees started standing up, pointing their finger at the ceiling and joyously calling out, “Radhe!” Eventually Amma too rose to her feet and, with both hands pointing upwards, called out the longest “Radheee!” of the celebration.

In her satsang the night before {news}, Amma had prayed that her children’s lives become “filled with the colour of bliss.” Certainly, in Jaipur that prayer came true.

*****

Later that day, just before sunset, maybe a 100 metres before entering Haryana, Amma met up with all the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees accompanying her on the tour. Her camper and all the buses pulled off to the side of the highway.

By this time almost everyone had heard that Amma had celebrated Holi at the devotees’ house. In fact, back in Jaipur, many of the ashramites themselves had been “Holi-ed” {full report}. They had been accommodated inside a wall-fortified school, but almost everyone that had ventured outside—to the delight of a few and to the chagrin of most—had been caught by various packs of celebrators. In the end, some of the ashramites had fully joined in, and, as such, about a third of Amma’s children wore signs of the celebration on their white saris and dhotis, heads and faces. However the majority had escaped unscathed.

But almost as soon as Amma sat down in the field, someone handed her a packet of florescent orange powder… then a packet of florescent pink powder… Amma then told everyone to close their eyes. Nervous laughter began to erupt here and there. A mischievous smile began spreading across Amma’s face. She then reached into the bags of powder and began tossing handfuls this way and that. It was like the morning all over again. You could hardly see for all the paint. The brahmacharis, brahmacharinis, devotees, Amma—everyone was covered in colours.

When Amma finished her initial joyous attack, she then reached up and liberally smeared orange paint across her own two cheeks! Everyone sat there looking up at the beaming smile upon her glowing face.

A young Japanese lady was sitting to Amma’s right. She was one of those who had been hit back in Jaipur. Now her face and sari showed the aftermaths of not one but two Holi celebrations. Lovingly looking into the lady’s pink and orange face, Amma reached down with her right index finger and painted the mantra “Om” on top of the lady’s cleanly shaven head.

As the sun set, the sky also joined in Amma’s celebration.

It is said that Sri Krishna used to throw the colours around with his devotees, the gopis of Vrindavan. Through such joyous and loving actions, he stole their hearts and forged in them an unbreakable bond—a bond that would eventually transcend time and space, and take them to the divine realization that, in truth, there is nothing but God. Had Amma been doing anything less?

—Kannadi

 

Holi, the Festival of Colours, Joy and Renewal

Holi is an extremely popular festival of India and it is common to all sections of society with it’s origins going back to ancient times. Also known as ‘Holika’, it has been mentioned in very early religious texts such as Jaimini’s Purva mimamsa-sutras and others. It must have therefore existed several centuries before the common era and has been common all over India for millenia.

In India festivals are the fabric of scoiety that binds it together creating a happy and harmonious atmosphere. All the festivals carry within them social, religious and spiritual messages. Even so in this scheme of things Holi has a special place and purpose. In most cases festivals involve fasting and other austerities but in the case of Holi the opposite is the case. It is the time of the year when we are given free reign to express our desires and release some pressure by acting out in a controlled manner what has been building inside us for the rest of the year. Like a pressure cooker might explode if not taken care to let out some steam, likewise the festival of Holi serves the same in our psychological make-up. In this way we clean the slate in order to begin the new year afresh without stagnated and repressed vasanas pulling us down.

The purpose of Holi is not to celebrate only the positive emotions but in some cases it serves as a legitimate way of expressing negative emotions might also be called for. In such a tradition, on Holi, it is not completely unheard of to slap someone gently who has been a source of consternation to us during the rest of the year. Naturally this should not be used as an excuse for wanton eratic behaviour and should be done with a spirit of good humor as Holi is after a festival of friendhsip and joy, with the express purpose of healing society and preventing negative tendencies from overwhelming us. Another aspect of Holi is to help us break the barriers we have built around ourselves and our ego. Usually we are very protective of our personal space and will not let anyone violate that. During Holi such rules do not apply and the whole purpose is to behave in such a way as to bring down those walls in ourself and others and let go. Suddenly there is no difference between us and others. We slip into a state of oneness in which everyone is equal. This is the special beauty of Holi.

Worship of fire is also an important part of Holi as in the this process we offer our vasanas to Agni in order to trancend them eventually. Worshipping the fire during Holi also ushers in the warm season ashead as we move to the new year, marking the end of winter and the abundance of the upcoming spring harvest season. The colours of Holi are also a reflection of our joyful emotions and desires beeing now freely expressed. In the olden days the colours themselves that were used were natural and organic thus serving the dual purpose of being healthy for the body as well as healing our psyche. Nowadays this is not the case as the artificial colours we use are rather harmful and even toxic. The ayurvedic principle has been lost.

Like all Indian and Hindu festivals, Holi is inextricably linked to mythical tales and commemorates the victory of good over evil. There are at least three legends that are directly associated with the festival of colors: the Holika-Hiranyakashipu-Prahlad episode, Lord Shiva’s killing of Kamadeva, and the story of the ogress Dhundhi.

Story of Prahlad

narasimha

Hiranyakashipu was king of the asuras. Hiranyakashipu’s brother had been slain by Lord Vishnu for terrorising gods and goddesses. As a result, Hiranyakashipu wanted to destroy Lord Vishnu and keep the other gods subdued. He told his soldiers to crush all those who worshipped Vishnu, but Vishnu protected his devotees. Hiranyakashipu thought to himself, “I will have to match my powers with Vishnu’s to rule over the three worlds”.

So, he began performing tapas (severe austerities). When he was thus occupied, the gods ransacked his city and destroyed his palace. Hiranyakashipu’s wife, who was expecting a child, was sent to Sage Narada’s hermitage. There, she learned about religion and the glory of Lord Vishnu under him. Narada taught the Queen that Lord Vishnu was the soul of all created things and that he was present everywhere. The child within her, Prahlad, absorbed all this knowledge too.

Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu’s austerities pleased Lord Brahma who said, “Arise Hiranyakashipu. Any boon that you ask of Me shall be yours”. Hiranyakashipu said, “I wish that my death be not caused by man or beast, with a weapon or without a weapon, during day or night, indoors or outdoors, on earth or in the sky. Grant me the undisputed lordship over the material world”. Lord Brahma granted him the boon.

Hiranyakashipu then brought his wife back to his city where Prahlad was born. Hiranyakashipu, with his new powers, renewed his hostilities against Vishnu and His followers. He declared, “There is none stronger than I. I am the lord of the three worlds. I shall be worshipped as such”.

In the meantime, Prahlad was growing up and was the apple of Hiranyakashipu’s eye. He asked Prahlad, “Son, tell me: what do you think is the best thing in life?” To which Prahlad replied, “To renounce the world and seek refuge in Vishnu.” Hearing this, Hiranyakashipu laughed. He called aside his son’s teacher and said to him, “Guard him closely. I think that the followers of Vishnu are secretly influencing him. Do not let him out of your sight!”

After many months, his teacher said, “Prahlad, I think you are now ready to meet your father.” When brought before his father, Hiranyakashipu asked him, “You have been with your Guru a long time! What have you learnt?” Prahlad calmly replied, “I have learnt that the most worthwhile occupation for anyone is the worship of Lord Vishnu.”

When Hiranyakashipu heard this reply, he became very angry: “O accursed child! Who taught you such perverse things?” Unperturbed, Prahlad replied, “Lord Vishnu. He reveals Himself to all who are devoted to Him.”

Hearing this, Hiranyakashipu shouted angrily, “This boy must not live! Take him away and kill him! Kill this vilest enemy disguised as my son. Poison him or attack him when he sleeps but kill him!”

The soldiers attacked Prahlad when Prahlad was meditating on Lord Vishnu, but their weapons could not touch Prahlad. Deadly snakes were let loose on Prahlad, but their fangs turned impotent. Mighty elephants could not trample him. He was pushed off a cliff but Prahlad was unharmed.

In desperation, Hiranyakashipu had him fed with poison but it transformed into nectar in Prahlad’s mouth.

It was on this day that Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s sister who had a boon to brave fire without being hurt, tried to kill Prahlad by taking him on her lap and sitting on a burning pyre of wood. Holika was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unscathed!

Thus, the Holi festival signifies the burning of self-conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, hatred and all other negative tendencies and actions, and the victory of righteous forces over demonic forces.

In the case of Prahlad his father was unimaginably cruel towards him, yet his faith gave him shelter and protected him.  The monstrosity of Hiranyakashipu was more than most could endure but Prahlad kept praying to the Lord who eventually in the form of Narasinmha, destroyed Hiranyakashipu and installed Prahlad on the throne who then went on to rule wisely for many years.

he moral of this story is that whatever adversities life may bring forth our faith should remain unwavering.

The Rituals

There are practically no religious observances such as fasting or worship on Holi. Generally, a log of wood will be kept in a prominent public place on the Vasantapanchami day (Magha Sukla Panchami), almost 40 days before the Holi festival. An image of Holika with child Prahlad on her lap is also kept on the log. Holika’s image is made of combustible materials whereas Prahlad’s image is made of non-combustible ones. People go on throwing twigs and other combustible material onto the log as it burns. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight in a simple ceremony during which the Raksoghna mantras of the Rigveda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) are sometimes chanted to ward off all evil spirits. Coconuts and coins are also thrown into this bonfire. The next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad (consecrated material) and smeared on the limbs of the body. Singed coconuts, if any, are also collected and eaten.

In some houses, the image of Kamadeva (the god of Desire) is kept in the yard and a simple worship is offered. A mixture of mango blossoms and sandalwood paste is partaken as prasad. The day, Phalgun Krishna pratipada, is observed as a day of revelry during which people throw gulal or coloured water or perfumed coloured powder on each other.

holi-raslila

Holi In Bengal

The people of Bengal observe this festival in a quiet and dignified manner as Dolapurnima or Dolayatra (the festival of the swing). The festival, said to have been initiated by King Indradyumna in Vrindavana, is spread over 3 or 5 days, starting from the sukla Chaturdasi of Phalguna. The main features of this festival are a celebration in honour of Agni and the worship of Govinda (Krishna), an image of whom is placed on a swing. The swing is to be rocked 21 times at the end of the festival. Also, the fire kindled on the first day is to be preserved till the last day.

The day is also celebrated as the birthday of Sri Krishna Chaitanya (A.D. 1486-1533).

Other folklore associated with Holi

Holi was, at first, a ritual performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families. They worshipped the full moon deity. Thus the full moon festival of Holika gradually became a festival of merrymaking, announcing the commencement of the spring season. Here we see how beatifully the Indian festivals entwine with the natural cycles marking important advents of the solar year. All the festivals are co-ordinated in such a manner as to give people a feeling of participating in a cycle larger than themselves and in so helping to tune in with the cosmic forces inherent in nature.

The following perhaps explains the other names of this festival: Vasanta-Mahotsava and Kama-Mahotsava. According to the stories in the Puranas and various local legends, this day is important for three reasons. It was on this day that Lord Siva opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva to ashes. It was also on this day that an ogress called Dhundhi, who was troubling the children in the kingdom of Prthu (or Raghu), was made to run for her life, by the shouts and pranks of the mischievous boys. Though she had secured several boons that made her almost invincible, the noise, shouts, abuses and pranks of boys became a chink in her armour due to a curse from Lord Siva. The day itself came to be called “Adada” or “Holika” since then.

Lord Krishna and Holi

The stories of Sri Krishna’s boyhood pranks which so delighted the gopis (cowherd maids) of Vrindavan also form the essence of Holi. Though older than Krishna, the gopis were so charmed by Sri Krishna’s play that they themselves became like children again. Sri Krishna and the gopis are depicted as celebrating Holi in the hamlets of Gokula, Barsana and Vrindavan, bringing them alive with their mischief and youthful pranks. Holi was Krishna and the gopi’s celebration of Love. This teasing, affectionate panorama of feeling and colour has been captured and immortalized in the songs on Holi.

Holi is also celebrated in memory of the immortal love of Lord Krishna and Radha. The young Krishna would complain to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change. In the legends of Krishna as a youth he is depicted playing all sorts of pranks with the gopis or cowgirls. One prank was to throw colored powder all over them. So at Holi, images of Krishna and his consort Radha are often carried through the streets. Holi is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the villages around Mathura, the birth-place of Krishna.

So let us also join together free from the binds of our self-created barriers and feel the happiness of Holi, forgetting ourselves and glimpsing the eternal joy residing in our soul.