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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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Women In India Turn To Technology To Stay Safe From Harassment

Police in many Indian cities are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints

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Women, Harassment
Women stand at a crowded place in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Oct. 9, 2006. Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a survey Thursday. VOA

New web and phone apps in India are helping women stay safe in public spaces by making it easier for them to report harassment and get help, developers say.

Women are increasingly turning to technology to stay safe in public spaces, which in turn helps the police to map “harassment prone” spots — from dimly lit roads to bus routes and street corners.

Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey released Thursday, as improving city access for women becomes a major focus globally.

“Women always strategize on how to access public spaces, from how to dress to what mode of transport to take, timings and whether they should travel alone or in a group,” said Sameera Khan, columnist and co-author of “Why Loiter? Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets.”

#MeToo, Victim, Harassment
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician M.J. Akbar takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, July 5, 2017, at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The Indian minister and veteran newspaper editor announced his resignation, Oct. 17, 2018, while still insisting that the accusations of sexual harassment are false. VOA

Reported crimes up 80 percent

Indian government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016.

The fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 put the spotlight on the dangers women face in India’s public spaces.

The incident spurred Supreet Singh of charity Red Dot Foundation to create the SafeCity app that encourages women across 11 Indian cities to report harassment and flag hotspots.

“We want to bridge the gap between the ground reality of harassment in public spaces and what is actually being reported,” said Singh, a speaker at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference on Thursday.

India, Harassment
Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi. VOA

The aim is to take the spotlight off the victim and focus on the areas where crimes are committed so action can be taken.

Dimly lit lanes, crowded public transport, paths leading to community toilets, basements, parking lots and parks are places where Indian women feel most vulnerable, campaigners say.

Stigma attached to sexual harassment and an insensitive police reporting mechanism result in many cases going unreported, rights campaigners say.

Apps are promising

But apps like SafeCity, My Safetipin and Himmat (courage) promise anonymity to women reporting crimes and share data collected through the app with government agencies such as the police, municipal corporations and the transport department.

Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi
People hold placards at a rally condemning the rapes of two girls, aged 8 and 11, in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

“The data has helped in many small ways,” said Singh of the Red Dot Foundation. “From getting the police to increase patrolling in an area prone to ‘eve-teasing’ to getting authorities to increase street lighting in dark alleys, the app is bringing change.”

Also Read: Women And Girls In Poor Countries Are Using Contraceptives More: Report

Police in many Indian cities, including New Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints, promising prompt action.

“Safety apps are another such strategy that could be applied by women but I worry that by giving these apps, everyone else, most importantly the state, should not abdicate its responsibility towards public safety,” Khan said. (VOA)