By Subrata Mukherjee
In love with Golapi, Subratagolapi.
The festival of Holi is a very popular festival among the Hindus, also known as the festival of love with the festival of colours.
The festival of Holi or the festival of colours is celebrated as the mark of eternal and divine love of Radha and Krishna and it signifies the triumph of good over evil!
Holi celebrates the arrival of spring and also announces the end of the season of winter. It has a vast cultural significance as to bring an end to old enmity and cherish the new thought of hope and joy with love in the friends known or unknown. It signifies the triumph of good over all evil, encourages forgiving the old bitterness and repair the broken relationship.
The Holi celebrates the performance of love, happiness and joy with the colours lasting for ever in the night and day of Purnima, the full moon day in the month of Phalguna of the Hindu calendar year.
Though this festival was originated in the northern India but with the ramifications of thoughts and ideas and the visions of unity this beautiful festival is celebrated in the various parts of India and also in Nepal, South Africa, America, England, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Malaysia and many parts of Europe. The festival of Holi is the mark of celebration of the season of spring with love, frolic and colours.
The celebration of Holi starts on the night before the Purnima (The full moon) with a ‘Holika Dahan’ in which the people gather to perform their religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu was killed in the fire. The next morning is celebrated as the ‘Rangwali Holi’ or ‘Dhuleti’, a festival of colours.
In the Brij region of the northern India, the place where Lord Krishna was born the festival of Holi is celebrated as ‘Rang Panchami’ in commemoration of the divine and eternal love of Radha and Krishna.
A sharp opinion and belief is established in the celebration of Holi as the mark of the triumph of good over the evil and this is substantially proven in the religious belief where instances were exposed in the chapter 7 of Bhagwata Purana that referred The king Hiranyakashipu as the king of demonic evil and an incarnation of injustice and oppression. He was the king of demonic Asuras, and had earned a infallible boon that gave him five special powers namely, he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (mechanical weapons) nor by any shastra ( mind made weapons), and neither on land nor in water or air. Hiranyakashipu as a result, grew arrogant and thought he was God and demanded that everyone would worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika, Prahlada’s evil aunt and the sister of Hiranyakashipu tricked Prahlada into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada who survived while Holika burned. Vishnu, the god who appears as an avatar to restore Dharma in Hindu beliefs, took the form of Narasimha, half human and half lion at dusk took Hiranyakashyapu at a doorstep placed him on his lap and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws.
The Holika bonfire and Holi signifies the celebration of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and of the fire that burned Holika.
The festival of Holi has traditionally been also observed by non-Hindus, such as by Jains and Newar Buddhists
In Mughal India, Holi was celebrated with such exuberance and fanfare that people of all castes could throw colour on the Emperor as was seen with several paintings of Mughal emperors celebrating Holi. Grand celebrations of Holi were held at the Lal Qila, where the festival was also known as Eid-e-gulaabi or Aab-e-Pashi.Mehfils were held throughout the walled city of Delhi with aristocrats and traders alike participating.
This however changed during the rule of Emperor Aurangzeb. He banned the public celebration of Holi using a Farman issue in November 1665. The Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar himself wrote a song for the festival of Holi, while poets such as Amir Khusrau, Ibrahim Raskhan, Nazeer Akbarabadi and Mehjoor Lakhnavi relished it in their writings.
Sikhs also have traditionally celebrated the festival, at least through the 19th century with its historic texts referring to it as “Hola.”
Gobind Singh, the last Guru of the Sikhs modified Holi with a three-day “Hola Mohalla” extension festival of martial arts adding more colours and frolic in to it. The extension started the day after the Holi festival in Anandpur Sahib, where Sikh soldiers would train in mock battles, compete in horsemanship, athletics, archery and military exercises.
Holi was observed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his Sikh Empire that extended across what are now northern parts of India and Pakistan. According to a report by Tribune India, Sikh court records state that more than 200 mounds of colours were used in 1837 by Ranjit Singh and his officials in Lahore. Ranjit Singh would celebrate Holi with others in the Bilawal gardens, where decorative tents were set up.
In 1837, Sir Henry Fane who was the commander-in-chief of the British Indian army joined the Holi celebrations organised by Ranjit Singh. A mural in the Lahore Fort was sponsored by Ranjit Singh and it showed the Lord Krishna playing Holi with gopis in Brij region. After the death of Ranjit Singh, his Sikh sons and others continued to play Holi every year with colours and lavish festivities. The colonial British officials joined these celebrations and this way the celebration of Holi spread all through the national and the international communities.
Arrival of Mahaprabhu Shree Shree Chaitanya!
On this great day of Phalgun Purnima(Dol Purnima), 535 years ago Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born in 1486 A.D. to Pandit Jagannath Misra and Sachi Devi at Nabadwip, West Bengal, India. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu revealed the mode of worshipping the Lord Krishna with ecstatic song and dance that left a profound and magical effect on “Vaishnavism” in Bengal.
As a devotee to Lord Krishna, he revealed the most sublime sentiments and the natural disposition of a true devotee. He taught mankind by his own example how to establish a connection with the Lord through the practice of pure devotion. He was also the chief propouder of vedantic philosophy of Achintya Bheda Abheda. Mahaprabhu founded Goudiya Vaishnavism by which He expounded Bhakti Yoga and popularised the chanting of Hare Krishna Maha mantra. That practice is Harinam Sankirtan, or the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord:”Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!” united all the common people under an absolute peace with devotional salvation. Mahaprabhu composed “Shikshastakam” i.e eight devotional prayers. The name of the prayer comes from the Sanskrit word comprising “Shiksha”means instructions and “Astakam”means consists of eight parts or stanzas. The teachings contained within the eight verses believed to hold the essence of all the teachings on “Bhakti Yoga”within the Gaudiya Tradition.
Mahaprabhu had emblemed his divine mission in the forms of activities to write theological works explaining scientifically pure Bhakti and divine love and to revive the places where Lord Krishna had, in the end of Dvapara yuga, exhibited His spiritual acts for the benefit of the religious world, e.g., Mathura and Vrindavan. To transcend these noble and divine acts Mahaprabhu propounded those eight verses, called “Siksastakam”, in which His mission and precepts are revealed. The teachings contained within the eight verses are believed to contain the essence of all teachings on Bhakti Yoga.
Mahaprabhu was himself a descension of Radha rani and His divine joy and happiness was boundless for Lord Krishna!
The New World (Natun Prithibi)