Holi is a well-loved festival of India and some other places. It has been well depicted in miniature and modern paintings. Beautiful and charming, abstract and mysterious, the images capture the essence of the celebration. Holi is a day of not just throwing coloured water and powder on each other but actually has a deep cultural significance. It is a day of new beginnings. The day to end all past conflicts and rid oneself of past errors. A day of forgive and forget. Other than Hindus, Jains and Newar Buddhists also celebrate Holi, a festival of colour, a festival of love, the spring festival !
Radha-Krishna playing Holi, modern painting.
The festival of Holi denotes victory of good over evil, the end of winter and arrival of spring. It depicts a good spring harvest season. The festival lasts for a night and a day starting on the evening of the Purnima or Full moon day of the moth of Phalgun in the Hindu Vikram Samvat calender. The first evening or Chhoti Holi is Holika Daaahan, or burning of the demon Holika. She is the sister of Hiranyakashipu as per legend. People gather around Holika and sing and dance. Wood and combustible materials are used to make the bonfire, near temples and other open spaces.
The next day is Rangwali Holi. The day is full of fun and frolic, throwing of coloured solutions from pichkaaris. Groups sing and dance, playing drums and dholak. A drink Bhaang made from cannabis is consumed on this day, also thandaai.
Holi depiction, Modern art, Source : Pixabay
In older days, washable natural plant derived colours from plants like turmeric, neem, dhak and kumkum were used. Nowadays, since the mid 20th century onwards, synthetic colours are being used. Though in the 21st century organic colours are making a comeback! The festival of Holi is mentioned in the Puranas and by the poet Kalidasa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II. The festival finds mention in the Sanskrit drama Ratnavali. Many famous poets have written on Holi or made references to the festival. In Mughal India Holi was celebrated by the emperors as Eid-e-gulaabi. Grand celebrations used to tale place at Lal Qila.
Holi, modern painting.
Mughal royals celebrating the festival of Holi in Udaipur, image, City Palace, Udiapur, Rajasthan.
During the 19th century, Sikhs celebrated it as Hola-mohalla , an extension festival of martial arts, horsemanship, atheletics, archery and mock battles. Colonial British officials joined the Holi parties organised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Bilawal Garden in Lahore, previously a part of India.
A poem by Sarita Aditya Verma –
Let the evil within be annihilated
And grey be restored
Rejuvenated to vibrancy of colours of love
Dispersion of love and light
Through the prismatic heart
Every soul be washed anew
In colours of the rainbow in mirthful hues
Forgive and forget, past hurt
And in the beauty of love, regale
Let’s celebrate Holi
The festival of colours, harbinger of spring !
Holi depiction, modern art.
- Images from Wikimedia Commons
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