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Celebrating Holi: Victory of Good over Evil

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Green for harmony, orange for optimism, blue for vivacity and red for happiness and love. The Hindu religious festival Holi is celebrated today, March 21. It coincides with the last full moon day of the lunar month of Ph?lguna. Celebrated in a flurry of colours, Holi marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

 

 

Holi stems from Hindu mythology. The legend goes that King Hiranyakapishu was a despot, who demanded that people bow to his feet and worship him as a living god. Proud and arrogant, he was a troublemaker. His own son Prahlad preferred Lord Vishnu to him.

Obviously, Hiranyakapishu wanted to get rid of his son. He tried to kill Prahlad on several occasions with no avail. The King then called on his sister Holika. She had a gift – she was not scared of fire. Hiranyakapishu challenged Prahlad to lie down in the fire with his aunt.

To the despot King’s surprise, good triumphed over evil. Prahlad was saved and the gods rewarded him for his loyalty and devotion. Holika was punished for her egotism. This story gave birth to the festival Holi, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil but also fertility and the arrival of spring.

 

 

Holi means ‘to burn’ and derives from the word ‘Holika’. The colour pigments have replaced the ashes with which Hindus used to cover their faces. Several days before the festival, Indians collect timber, which are used for bonfires. On the eve of the festival, bonfires of joy are lit in all the rural areas of India. They symbolize the cremation of the sister of King Hiranyakapishu and the defeat of evil. The inhabitants then collect the embers to light up new fires in their homes.

The true meaning of the festival of colours unfolds on D-Day, known as Dhuletti. Prior to the festival, people buy colourful munitions made up of balloons filled with coloured water and tinted powder known as gulal.

 

“Bura Na Mano, Holi Hai!”

 

 

The objective on Holi is to take to the streets dressed in white and sprinkle friends, family members and sometimes, perfect strangers, with the colourful mixtures by shouting, “Bura Na Mano, Holi Hai!” which means, “Don’t be upset, it’s Holi!”

Holi is a celebration. It is a fun festival for everyone; people sing and dance to Bollywood beats. It is an animated festival where people eat delicious food while sipping on Bhang, a mixture of cold milk, almonds and spices. Talk about being drunk with joy!

Holi festival also has another symbolic meaning that is intrinsically tied to social cohesion. For a few days, thanks to the festival, social barriers vanish and men and women, regardless of their castes, mingle and have fun together. The festival exhales positivity especially with spring on the doorstep. It is an invitation to embrace loved ones and friends and forgive one’s enemies. This positive energy in fact started with the spring-clean of all the houses.

 

 

Holi is also praised for its medical virtues. Hindus believe that the colourful mixtures penetrate the skin’s pores and in so doing, boost the body’s natural immunity.

Millions of Indians, Nepalese and people around the world including Mauritians, celebrate Holi. It is one of the many festivals where the Hindu diaspora honours millenary traditions.

 

Starch and food colouring
 

 

The colourful powder is made from maize starch and food colouring. Holi powder is recyclable and does not contain metal residue. Subsequently, it does not incite hypersensitivity reactions. It can also be swallowed in small quantities. If ever it gets into the eyes, rinsing them with water will work just fine. As for the hair, one or two shampoos will do!