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Holi - Festival of Colours - Fairs and Festivals in India

Holi, the Festival of Colors is celebrated in India to welcome the season of spring and end of winters. It is a two day long festival celebrated with lot of gaiety all over India but special mention should be made of Holi of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna. On the eve of Holi, people gather to light a huge bonfire of the dried leaves and twigs. On the morning of the festival, people meet each other to apply dry and wet colors each other, play with water and eat sweets together.

According to Hindu mythology, the roots of the festival of Holi can be traced to the story of Hiranya Kashipu. He was the demon king in the ancient times who had got a boon from Lord Shiva that nobody could kill him. After being granted the boon, he considered himself to be equivalent to God and insisted that his subjects should worship him rather than the Gods. His son Prahlad, a strong devout of Lord Vishnu objected him. This angered Hiranya Kashipu and he tried to kill Prahlad many times but the child always came out unhurt. One day, Hiranya Kashipu decided to set fire to Prahlad who was seated in Holika's lap, Hiranya Kashipu's sister. Although Holika had the boon that the fire cannot burn her, she was the one who died in the fire and Prahlad was not hurt at all. Thus, Holi is celebrated as the victory of good over evil.

The Festival Fun
Holi demands big time planning. Buckets and barrels of strongly coloured water have to be concocted and water balloons filled to greet friends and neighbours. The gala time starts in the morning itself. People go around smearing each other with gulal (coloured powder) and coloured water. Children shoot jets of water from their pichkaris, screaming gleefully. A lot of people spend the day alternating between getting drenched and coloured, and consuming thandai (a marijuana-based drink) in large quantities as the day progresses. Singing and dancing to the beat of dholaks (drums) completes the picture.

The evenings are not ‘as’ exciting. A good part of what’s left of the day is spent in that special room of the house – the bathroom. Scrubbing and scrubbing, and then scrubbing some more. It is an exercise that is repeated for days as it’s a normal sight to see people with patches of pink skin, green hair, purple hands and silver nails, for days and even weeks after Holi. Even the neighbourhood cows and buffaloes get their share of colourful patches.

The Grand Celebration In The Cities of India
In the cities of Barsana (a town 60km from Mathura and home of Radha) and Vrindavan (the most famous sites around Mathura and the place where Krishna played with the gopis) Holi is celebrated is a special way.

Thousands of people flock to Vrindavan on this festive occasion and watch Vrindavan transform into a puffy colourful cloud of gulal from which emerge magically as it were, endless narratives on Krishna’s pranks.

There is an especially interesting ritual practised by the people here. Bhabis (sisters-in-law) beat the devars (younger brothers-in-law) to pulp! What follows is a delirious scene of bhabis chasing, cornering and pounding the devars, while they exhaust every trick in their arsenal to dodge the former. But this is done in good cheer and no offence is taken. In fact the devars look forward to it as much as the bhabis do. Well, ‘almost’ as much as the bhabis.

Like all of us, Dawn has a job to do, so she steals one last glance at this multi-coloured canvas, breathes a little sigh and moves on to Pakistan. and sometime in between, she keeps her annual tryst with Krishna to tell him India remembers and thanks him, above all, for being the god of things small as well.

 

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