Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Holi: Celebration of nature’s transformation

Rukma Keshav Fadke | MARCH 24, 2024, 12:16 AM IST

Our culture nurtured us to worship nature. Our traditions are in alignment with the complex cycle of the environment. The human physiological, mental as well as life cycle is expected to work in accordance to the nature itself. The process of embracing the changes in the nature, as well as the human life, according to the seasons and celebrating them is termed as a ‘festival.’ For this very reason we find that there exist six different extremely enticing festivals to celebrate the six seasons of the nature. Amongst these, the celebration of the spring (vasant) season is the one of ‘Holi.’
In India, wherever spring is experienced, we find different manifestations of the gratefulness and happiness due to the environmental changes that the season brings about. In our Goa and Maharashtra, we celebrate Holi, Rangapanchami and Shimgotsav. Lathmar Holi in Uttar Pradesh, Hola Mohalla in Punjab, Khadi Holi in Uttarakhand, Vasantotsav in West Bengal, in Manipur its Yaosang, Manjal Kuli in Kerala, Faagua in Bihar, Faalkua in Assam and many other states including Rajasthan. It is essentially noteworthy that even if the customs of celebration differ from place to place due to geographical conditions, the connection with the season and nature is persistent.
Holi being an ancient festival is in fact very startling. A great example is the practice of Rangapanchami in which we prepare bucket-full of colored water and drench each other with ‘pichkaaris’. Along with spraying colored water with a horn, Vastyaayan has mentioned 20 different types of games of this sort to celebrate holi. ‘Holaka’, ‘Hutaashini’, ‘Patavaalvilasini’ are some of the names that have been introduced over time.
In our tradition, we place logs of wood vertically in a pit. Surrounding area is decorated with rangoli, followed by puja and finally we burn that wood or ‘Holi’. Women circumnavigate this burning holi and sprinkle water. Possibly this is done to prevent the fire from spreading around. In certain places on the days of full moon or the day after, fire burning is performed. They are often called ‘Bhadra Hom’ (भद्रेचा होम). People move around this holi in a circular motion while doing the noise natively called as ‘Bomba’. There is a tradition of conferring coconut into the enflamed Holi. In certain places this burning coconut is retrieved as well. There is a game where players stand bare foot and far away from each other and throw half-burnt wood logs at each other. There is a custom of preparing baked-coconut puranpoli as the offering. Chicken is also offered in some areas.
On the second day of Holi, a festival named ‘Dhulivandan’ or ‘Dhulvad’ is celebrated. On this day the mixture of ashes and soil is applied on the skin. Clayey wet soil is also used. The ‘Panchami’ that follows is marked with splashing colours. The effect of nature and culture on the lifestyle of humans and its positive as well as negative consequences are expressed during the time of festivals. The delight of colours that follows the burning of evil and anger in our hearts signifies this. The resentment harbored against one another should be eradicated and all the work should be done together with unity is the main objective behind. While protecting and conserving the nature, we should keep in mind that we are only a mere component of nature.
There has evolved a tendency to give unwanted advice on the onset of Holi or such festivals. When Holi is near, we hear instructions such as ‘celebrate environment-friendly Holi’. This is like giving a naturally beautiful girl advice about ‘how to get beautiful.’ Funnily enough, these ‘know-it-alls’ seem to disappear until the next holi altogether. They seem to go mute on issues like diversion of Mhadei river water, cutting of mountains and exploitation of the ocean. All these concerns regarding conservation of nature, water and animals seem to surface only during the times of cultural festivals. Stop giving unwanted recommendations to those who protect the environment through the cultural practices.
Every this year some new information surfaces itself. The festival notorious for pollution and water wastage transformed into the ‘festival of burning women’ last year, which was ironically humorous. Even the well wishes conveyed during the festival are inclusive of personal advice. The purpose behind these practices needs evaluation. It is not the case that these people have no concern for environment and pollution. But they are unaware that it is consequently undermining the nature worshipping culture.
Association of culture with distortion will lead to an aversive behavior towards culture. Culture and distortion should be separated from one another first in order to learn about them. Don’t combine them together. Due to the continuous association of these two through different mediums has led to us forgetting our duty to protect and conserve the nature. The festivals that celebrate the joy of working in accordance with the nature should be practiced and expressed without any adulteration is my wish. Happy Holi!

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