HOLI, THE GRAND FESTIVAL MARKED BY COLOURED WATER, gaiety and real gay abandon, comes when the cold winter months give way to summer.The crops have been cut, threshed, and stored or sold away. The farmer and his wife are free, and money is in hand. This festival falls on the full moon during the month of Phagun some time in February or March, which is conducive to getting out and about.
Everyone is generally full of cheer.
Holi is associated to a great extent with Lord Krishna, who in his childhood and youth, ran around with his band of cowherds and maidens of the village, completely captivating everyone. He loved festivity, and the hamlets of Brindavan, Gokul and Barsana were full of fun and frolic. Lord Krishna played Holi with so much gusto that even taday the songs sung during Holi are full of pranks that he played on the Gopis and
Gopis played on him, especially those on his childhood sweethearyt Radhika,who lived in Barsana .she remained his heartthrob and none of his eighrt wives could ever take her place.
The festival of Holi begins on Duwadashi, three days earlier to Puno- on the 12th day of the waxing moon of Phagun. The children may have started festivities even earlier, with everyone shouting at them not to get wet and fall sick! They are seen running amok on roads and rooftops with syringes filled with water. Every prank is taken in one's stride and tolerated (to a certain extent, of course!). Nothing which can injure or hurt, or throwing colour or balloons on people going to their places of work, is to be allowed, but laxity and smiles are well writ on the faces of even those who usually wear forbidding expressions.
Bonfires date back to the days of Hiranyakashyap, when he ordered his son Prahlad (the great bhakt of Lord Narayan) to be burnt alive, because Hiranyakashyap was an Asur and hated Lord Narayan. He asked his sister Holika, to wear the set of clothes she possessed which could not catch fire. She was told to hold Prahlad on her lap tightly, so that he could not escape while in flames. Holika was a very good soul; she quietly transferred the clothes onto Prahlad and got burnt herself, thus saving Prahlad to grow up and be the greatest bhakt of Lord Vishnu. To celebrate this great event the bonfire is still lit.
The next day is the real day of Holi. This day is called Parva. From the morning onwards, people gather and play Holi. They visit each other's houses, carrying colour and water, drenching each other as they visit different places. Some get on to two- wheelers, cars and truckes and visit people living far away; others choose to play with their neighbours. Some just go driving around in town in coloured clothes singing at the top of their voices.
While people are indulging in the fun and frolic, foodstuffs like papri, kanji-ke-bare,gujia, preparations of meat, boiled sliced eggs, tea, coffee and, of course, hard drinks are freely served to known groups. There is much dancing and singing, the old and young join in the merrymaking. Lunchtime heralds the closing of the festival and everyone is tired and sleepy. A good scrub and shampoo are now needed to wash off the colour as much as possible and it is time to see oneself in the mirror, clean again.
There is no puja associated with Holi, except putting a little colour on the faces of the gods,at the beginning of the festival.
A description of the dandia would be appropriate at this stage.The dandia is a white cotton sari, preferably of voile or mulmul, the edges of which are coloured with a nonfast colour known as Indian pink. The dandia is made by dipping the gathered sides (all four) and letting the colour catch on to 2 to 3 inches of cloth, on all sides.
All the sides are done in turn. The colour spreads in uneven splendour and makesinroads into the cloth in the middle to a limited extent. When this cloth is dried, the middle can also be designed making small paisley designs or anything else that one likes. After it is dried, a full length of gota (gold or silver bordeer about 2 to 3 inches in width) is stitched on to the dandia. The portion covering the head and the pallu end also has a kiran attached to it, thus giving it more shimmer. (Kiran means finely cut edges of a silver or gold border, a must for a bride) Dandia is usually accompanied by another sari, blouse and petticoat when given to a married daughter of the house. Dandias are also made for the unmarried daughters. Making a dandia is difficult these days, so this problem is solved by getting a sari printed in pink and attaching gota kinari to it. This dandia is worn for playing Holi and gets into quite a bad state, especially on a new bride, but it is a must for her. The older ones prefer to wear it only for Rang Pashi.