Holi is a big festival in North India since it marks the beginning of spring after the long dreary winter months.The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun month, which this year falls on the 19th March. It once again is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil . The most important ritual of Holi is Holika dahan.The story behind this ritual is on my Kathai Kathaiyam blog.
Having spent a good number of years in South India, I was always eager to know how exactly holi was celebrated. We have only seen the holi celebrations on TV and movies and mostly the pictures showed more of hooliganism than any celebration (if you want to call drenching unsuspecting people with any liquid, a celebration, that is a different matter). Being in Jalandhar, I did not want to miss the opportunity of knowing how holi was celebrated by the people here. I approached a neighbour, who is a Haryanvi and who has spent all her life in Punjab and Haryana .
As usual she said the holi has lost all the charm in the cities with only hooliganism riding the roof. "In my mother's village, she said, there was a holika dahan at a central place. People arranged twigs and dungcakes and other combustible materials at this place. An effigy of Holika and an image of child in her lap was also kept along with the other things. All the households made a garland with replica of little stars and moon made out of cowdung. They also made some sweets for prasad. All the villagers assembled at the place where holika dahan was arranged, along with their garlands and prasad and other pooja materials. They did pooja and aarti and offered prasad and the cowdung garlands to the accumulated twigs and cowdung cake. A bonfire was lit.They sang and danced around the bonfire. The day after this was playing with colors. Originally they were playing with cowdung mixed in water and other vegetable colors made by squeezing some herbs and flowers in water. There was also this ritual by name, "laat mar". Young girls used to make a rope by twisting their duppattas and would beat young boys, who in turn would tease the girls and try to shield themselves with the help of a stick. After this they all had a sumptuous feast.
It is not a big festival for South India traditionally, however due to the cosmopolitan nature of the cities all over India, this is being celebrated in the South also these days. The day after holika dahan is the dhuli when people apply colored powder on each other as a mark of festivities and merriment. In the olden days herbal powders were used. However now a days, this has taken the form of a free for all with youngsters throwing colored water prepared with synthetic colors which lead to skin allergies. This hooligan element of this festival has taken the festival to down south also where it was not a practice to celebrate this festival earlier.
Happy Holi everyone. Play with Organic colors. Make merry!