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History behind the festival of colors, Holi

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Lathmar holi celebration
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Syona Sachdeva 

As the summer knocks on the doors and winters slowly moves out, comes the holi. The festival has a mythological and a scientific reason to be celebrated but most important is the way it is celebrated. People put different colors (gulal) on each other going from home to home. Gujiya, Papdi, and many other snacks are made for the family and guests who come to greet

Countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Australia and many others also celebrate this day performing the various activities of Holi.

Mythological significance- victory of good over evil

Many might wonder where the term ‘Holi’ originally came from or why Holi is even celebrated or why is it that we burn Holika a night before we play with colors. There are many legends that explain the reason for celebrating this festival but the most prominent one being the tale of Hiranyakashyap.

According to the Narad Purana, this day is celebrated to mark the Prahlad’s victory over the demon king Hiranyakashyap and his aunt Holika. The devil king has wished everybody in his kingdom to worship him like god and denied devotion to any other god. Meanwhile, his son Prahlad became a follower of Lord Vishnu. This was unacceptable to the king and an insult to his power. Hiranyakashyap ordered his son to sit in the fire along with his aunt ‘Holika’ as she was immune from fire due to the magical cloak she wore.  As instructed, Holika sat in fire with Prahlad in lap. But it did not worked out as planned. When fire roared, the cloak flew to Prahlad who was reciting the name of Lord Vishnu and Holika turned into ashes.

After this Lord Vishnu appeared and killed the cruel king Hiranyakashyap.

It is the defeat of Holika that signifies the victory of good over evil and hence every year Holika is burnt to celebrate the victory of good.

Legend of Radha-Krishna

But why play with colors? Why spoil our clothes and paint ourselves with colors?The reason takes us back to the story of Radha-Krishna.

Krishna being dark blue colored was always jealous of fair Radha. One day, notorious Krishna complained to his mother about the skin difference they both had. Mother, to boost his confidence, asked Krishna to color her with any color he wanted, making her look similar to him. Kanha took his mother Yashoda’s advice and colored Radha. They then became a couple and the trend of playing with colors started.

Beliefs in South India

People of South India wholeheartedly believe Lord Kaamadeva– the lord of love and passion. It is said that when Lord Shiva’s wife Sati died after she took the form of the goddess, Lord Shiva was left in grief. He was angry and sad. He detached himself from the matters of the world and went into deep meditation. The complications and destruction began. The gods then asked for help from Lord Kaamadeva to bring Lord Shiva back to normal.

Kaamadeva, well aware of the consequences he might have to suffer, shoot his arrow on Lord Shiva while he was meditating. This made him furious, he opened his third eye and turned Kaamadeva into ashes. But the arrow worked on Shiva and he married Parvati who had been worshiping and meditating to acquire Shiva as her husband.

After a while Lord Shiva revived Kaamadeva on the request of his wife, Rati. Thus, everyone was happy in the end.

It is believed that it was the day of Holi when Lord Kaamadeva sacrificed his life and was turned into ashes. The people, hence, celebrate the sacrifice of the ‘Love god’.

When is it celebrated?

 Holi is known as the festival of spring which is a two days festival. It starts on the Purnima (full moon day) in the month of Falgun which falls in between the end of February and mid of March.

On the first day, Holika is burnt in remembrance of Prahlad’s victory. People start collecting pieces of woods many days before and finally light the huge pile collected on the first day. This day is known as Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi.

The succeeding day is the day of colors, known as Rangwa Holi or Dhulandi when friends and family get together to spray colors on each other. The day is enjoyed with dry and wet colors as well as water. Feeling of love, joy, togetherness, forgiveness is shared among people.

Why visit Mathura Vrindavan during Holi?

 Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna, celebrates the fun filled festival for a week. Holi is an important Indian religious festival in Mathura as well as Vrindavan where Krishna was brought up. The cities situated in Uttar Pradesh celebrates the festival in different temples, one temple on each day of the week.

One of the significant temple and tourist attraction is ‘Bakai-Bihari’ temple of Vrindavan where people are full of the spirit of Holi and love for Lord Krishna.

Yet another interesting place is Gulal-Kund where the enactments of the Holi take place near the river side. Boys dressed up as Krishna display the stories of Holi for the pilgrims.

Near Mathura, in the town of Barsana and Nandgaon, Lath Mar Holi takes place where women beat up men with lathis (sticks). Men protect themselves from women with a shield. Thousands of people come to witness the strength of women and skills of men in this friendly fight.

This festival of colors marks the celebration of good over evil, beginning of the spring, joy of being together and sharing the love and building up relationships. Let us all get blended in colors and enjoy the day.

Also: Read at NewsGram how Holi is celebrated at different place outside India: www.newsgram.com/holi-celebrating-colors-of-joy-across-the-world/

Syona Sachdeva is an engineering student who likes to write on many issues

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)