A Riot of Color


The streets here are filled with people. There is colored powder floating in the air. The sound of laughter has made the neighborhood come alive. There is heady excitement on everyone’s faces. Music drowns all other sound apart from one. The irregular repetition of a single phrase, delivered in a light-hearted voice, now from one’s mouth, now from another’s.

“Bura na mano, Holi hai!”

I don’t believe anyone can truly and accurately describe the feelings expressed in these five simple words. The carefree exuberance that are associated with them. But I shall try.

The literal translation of this phrase is “Don’t be offended, it’s Holi”. For today is the day we let go of the negativity in our lives and embrace the beauty of life, of friendship, of family, of oneness, of forgiveness. There is no ‘elder’ or ‘younger’ when it comes to having fun during this festival. Everything is allowed. For it’s war. It’s love.

Holi celebrates the coming of spring. It celebrates the victory of good over evil. Legend says that Holi came to be celebrated when Lord Vishnu killed demon king Hiranyakashipu and his evil sister Holika who were trying to kill Prahlada, the lord’s devout worshipper. People all over the kingdom celebrated the siblings’ death by playing with colored powders made from flowers and indulging in delicious food.

The practice continues today. On Holi, everyone ‘lets go’. Silly antics like smearing each others faces with color, spraying each other with water and dancing to special ‘Holi’ songs are the norm. But the underlying emotions are even more overwhelming.

You don’t really need a reason to be happy on Holi. Or to celebrate it. And most importantly, you don’t choose to enjoy this day. Holi pulls you into the fun with a laugh, regardless of your age, gender, caste, even religion. It’s in the very spirit of the day. To be tolerant, welcoming, warm.

There is a jumpiness in everyone’s chest. A spring in their steps. An eagerness apparent on their faces. To share love. To share happiness. There is a heady feeling in the air. Of jubilation. Of celebration.

I’ve seen many people forgive each other on this day. For things that would’ve seemed unforgivable before. They throw color on each other. They laugh. They love. They celebrate.

I see faces shining with excitement. Eyes twinkling with mischief. As a child sneaks up behind his mother to spray her with water from his water gun. As a husband picks up his wife in his arms and bathes her with a bucket of red colored water. As a little girl reaches up towards her brother and runs her hands coated with multiple colors all over his face.

And on all their lips. The same phrase.

“Bura na mano, Holi hai!”

Don’t get offended. It’s Holi. The day everything is allowed. Because in the intoxicating joy that Holi brings, every trick is fair play. As long as it brings a smile on people’s faces. As long as the intention is innocent. As long as it’s meant to share the joy. The very essence of Holi is in the little pranks we play on our loved ones. The pranks that aren’t meant to hurt. But to make them laugh. Or at least irk them enough to retaliate with their own pranks.

Holi is about forgetting how old you are. It’s about letting out the child in you. It’s about playing with colors. Red. Green. Blue. Yellow. The traditional pink, the gulal. It’s about losing yourself in the beauty of the many delicacies unique to this festival. It’s about dancing. It’s about living to the fullest. It’s about appreciating the simple pleasures in life. Those of belongingness. Of unity. Of love. Of eating and playing too, sure! It’s about a very innocent emotion which is simple and easy to feel on this day. But defining it is the most complex task I’ve ever encountered.

So let go of your problems, your fears, your grudges. For a day, at least. Grab some organic color. Play.

No color? Never mind! Grab a little powder or a little flour… Smear it on your friends’ or family’s faces. Laugh. Enjoy. Live.

For Holi comes once a year. But its memories is what sustains you through the year. And consequently, your entire life.



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