Monday, March 14, 2011


Khaa key gujiya, pee key bhaang,
laaga k thora thora sa rang,
baaja ke dholak aur mridang,
khele holi hum tere sang. 

Winters have gone and colorful Spring is here.  I can see new leaves on my Kadi patta tree and the Rangoon creeper.  And just around the corner is the Spring festival of Holi, celebrated with gusto throughout India, especially in the North of the country.

Holi marks the end of the winter gloom and rejoices in the bloom of the spring time. It is the best time and season to celebrate.

Celebration of the festival of Holi goes back in time in India, as it has been mentioned in memoirs of several travellers as  well as our granthas.  There are several legends associated with the celebration of Holi the most prominent being  of the Demon King Hiranyakashyap.

Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion. 

Legend of Lord Krishna is also associated with play with colors as the Lord started the tradition of play with colours by applying colour on his beloved Radha and other gopis. 

 On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Effigy of Holika, the devil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap is placed in the wood and burnt. For, Holika tried to kill Hiranyakashyap's son Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee. 
Next day, is  the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti and it is on this day that the actual play of colours take place. There is no tradition of holding puja and is meant for pure enjoyment.
The tradition of playing colours is particularly rampant in north India and even in that region, there can be no comparison to the Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan

Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and  Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.

 Holi is celebrated at a time of the year when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest.  Reason enough to celebrated the festival with merriment and fervor.

A few days before the festival, the market is flooded with riot of colors, both dry and pakka colors , which are mixed with water.  

The market place becomes a riot of colors with gulal, and heaps of dry colors in every hue.  Not to be missed are pichkaris which are a great  favorite with children.

The festvial of Holi, secvond only to the most important festival of Indians, the Deepawali is also very popular with Bolly wood.  The Holi celebration of R K Studio belongiong to the kapoor family and at Pratteksha, the home of Superstar Amitabh bachhan are important events in Mumbai.

Holi songs have found their way into several movies,  perhaps the most famous being Rang barse from the movies Silsila.

To further enhance the festive spirit of Holi celebrations we have a social sanction to get a kick with the tradition of bhang. Then there is total wildness as people dance to the rhythm of dholak and sing traditional folk songs in loudest possible pitch. 

In the midst of these colouring games are savoured the mouth watering holi specialities like gujiya.


Already in the market near my home, gujiyas are being made in wholesale as people love to eat this sweet around Holi time.

Holi of Barsana, the birthplace of Radha, a village, near  Mathura, is of particular interest. Here, men from Nandgaon, the land of Krishna come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana.  But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis. Hence, the Holi get its new name here-Lathmaar Holi. 

In almost every neighborhood in North India, people smear color on each other and wish each other  Holi mubarak.  The children are extremely excited and move aroun in tolis, drenching anyone and everyone with colourful water with their pichkaris.  Not to be missed are water balloons which are thrown at every passerby by the joyous children. Buckets full of colored water and even pipe hoses are used to revel and celebrate this colorful festival.

Amidst the exciteemnt and celbration there is reason to be cautious.  For many chemicals are present in the colopirs which canl lead to serious health problems.  Silver color contains silver aluminiums bromide which is carcinogenic. Black color contains lead oxide which can lead to renbal failure. Green color contains copper sulphate which can lead to temporary blindness.

So there are several options to  making home made colors. marigold flowers, tesu flowers, haldi, beetroot  to name a few.  And if you dont want to go to the trouble of making these colors, 

thankfully there are healthy options in the market selling herbal and organic colors.

So, this year on HOLI  gorge on gujiya, indulge in bhang pakoras, and play safe Holi with organic colors.  Wishing you  HOLI MUBARAK!


  1. Happy Holi to you !!! :) :) Enjoy urself !!! :)

  2. Hey Abha have a fun Holi. Will look for Organica at the local supermart. And the gujiya pics made me hungry :)

  3. @ Uma Happy Holi to u too. am sure u r going to enjoy with your daughters.

  4. @ Purba Besides organica there are other herbal brands too. Yes gujiya makes Holi very sweet!