25 March 2016

Holi hai!

For me, Holi has always been a playful affair, even though I have never been a regular Holi player. In my childhood, it would be about water balloons, wasting copious amounts of water and using colours that won't ever come off. I discarded the water balloons as I entered college and eventually the whole festival after I graduated. This year, I broke the streak of non-celebration by celebrating with my family. We used organic/non-chemical/herbal gulaal and barring one bucket of water, it was a dry Holi. Of all my Holis, this one seemed the most sustainable.

Holi was never a religious (or even spiritual) affair for me. Neither was there any puja nor was there any fasting nor was there any temple going. This time things changed. I wanted to make Holi meaningful for myself. Why? While playing Holi is fun in itself, I thought that having an element of the Higher would make the festival even better. It would be better if the primary thought while playing Holi is a deeper philosophical one and not 'let me colour him black and blue!'

I looked up some of the historical (or mythological?) origins of the festival and added my own brain masala, to find a significance that would relate to me. It might not be the actual significance of the festival, but that is of no concern to me. My significances are meant for me and so long as they don't cause harm to others or are not contrary to basic notions of morality, I am happy with those significances.

So how is Holi spiritually significant for me?

The end product of Holi is filled with colour and mostly so much colour, that people stand transformed at the end of the celebration. Given a large number of people, it would be more difficult to recognise one person from another on the occasion of Holi as opposed to any other day. Holi is also a community affair and sometimes you end up playing with people who you don't usually interact with. So if I were to go to a friends house to play Holi, I would play with my friend, her friends and her family. I may even take some of my friends to her house.

Thus, in action, Holi is a coming together. The difference between one and another is reduced. We come out of our boxes and greet the spring air. We enjoy playing with people we might not necessarily know. We use colours and remove the superficial differences. We hope that with spring, the animosities will be left behind and the new year will start afresh. [We allow for some violation of personal space, but of course, that is not an excuse to harass people or play with those who don't want to play or other rowdy behaviour.]

Then, Holi for me is about seeing the One in everyone and everyone in that One. It is about the disappearance of any difference.

There are several stories that connect Lord Krishna with Holi, be it the blue skin of the Lord or His playful activities with the Gopis or His love for Radha. Thinking of Krishna and Holi, reminds me of the words - Mohe rang de Nand Lal, apne hi rang mai! (Colour me O! Nand Lal!, in Your colour!). I can't recall from where I picked up these words. It could be a bhajan or a Bollywood song or creation of my imagination. Nevertheless, the words have significance for me.

Literally, it means that the devotee wants to be the same shade of blue (or black?) as that of Krishna and is praying to Him for it. Figuratively, it could mean that the devotee is praying to God to make him like God. In that sense, the words encapsulate the entire spiritual journey from being to Brahman.

I am not sure if these words relate to Holi, but I find it fascinating that the colour imagery may possibly relate to a deeper philosophical meaning. I am aware that I might be forcing the connection, but I allow it because I prefer it to at least the literal meaning.

In conclusion, where do I stand now?

To me, Holi is about forgetting differences. It is about the unity of the universe. The essence in you is the essence in me. It is about remembering that deep down, we are all the same energy and that eventually all superficial differences have to go.

That doesn't justify all forms of celebrations of the festival and that is also not my aim. My aim was to find a spiritual significance. Now that I have that, even if I don't celebrate the festival in any shape or form, I could focus on this thought on that day. Or I could find ways to celebrate it in a non-wasteful way, keeping in mind the spiritual significance of the festival [So instead of throwing colours, buying art kits for underprivileged students]. At the end of the day, the modern day celebration is not important. The thought of Oneness accompanied by a right deed is most important.

But in the future, if I do end up celebrating then I hope that when I throw colours, some of my prejudices will also be discarded; expanding my concept of Oneness. And if that were to not happen, then I hope that I am reminded that without the thought of Oneness, I am only playing a game and not celebrating a festival.

Happy Holi! Here's my Holi greeting for everyone:

Mohe rang de Nand Lal, apne hi rang mai!
May the colours of Holi intermix such that we no longer see any differences and instead see that One in everyone and everyone in that One!

Image source : http://www.pitara.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2002/10/happy-holi-630x210.jpg


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