Celebrating The Holi Festival In Kalimpong.
Last weekend, like every year, Indians and Nepalis celebrated Holi, the festival of colour and love. Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts around the world. Holi festivals are popping out like mushrooms everywhere and people use this occasion to party like there’s no tomorrow, take drugs and get drunk. This might be the case in India & Nepal as well (I couldn’t tell), but in Austria for example, I’d bet my last shirt that most people don’t know why Holi is celebrated in the first place – and this is why I find these party festivals needless! The legend behind it is an inspirational one…
The Legend Of Holi.
Holika (from where Holi comes from) was a female demon, and the sister of Hiranyakashyap, the demon king who considered himself ruler of the Universe and commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. Prahalad was the king’s son. His father hated him because Prahalad was a faithful devotee of the God Vishnu, not him. One day the king asked him “Who is the greatest,Vishnu or I?” “Vishnu is,” said the son, “you are only a king.” The king was furious and decided to murder his son. He tried several ways to kill his son, but failed every time; Prahalad survived being thrown over a cliff, being trampled by elephants, bitten by snakes, and attacked by soldiers. So the king asked his sister, Holika, to kill the boy. Holika captured Prahalad and sat in the middle of a fire with the boy on her lap. Since Holika had been given a magic power by the Gods that made her immune to fire, Prahalad would burn to death while she remained alive. But because Holika used her gift to do something evil, her power vanished and she was burned to ashes. Prahalad stayed true to his God, Vishnu who protected him, and Prahalad survived.
Therefore Holi is celebrated as a festival of the victory of good over evil. In many parts of India, the dummy of Holika is burned on large bonfires.
How We Ended Up Celebrating Holi.
We ended up celebrating this festival while travelling through northeast India. All over sudden we were covered in colourful dust while searching for our hotel in Kalimpong, West Bengal. We just threw our bags into the room and went with the flow.
Although Holi has religious roots, not much religious activity is involved in its celebration anymore. It’s the most energetic Indian festival, filled with fun and humour – even the strict rules of separation between castes are abandoned during the festival; it simply connects people. They’re dancing through the streets, accompanied by trucks with music equipment to get the tensions really high.
We had the opportunity to sit up on one of these floats. It was totally crazy, with people throwing colourful powders, dancing and unbearable noise.
There’s A Down Side To The Holi Festival.
The down side of the Holi festival is that these colours are all highly toxic! You don’t feel it immediately, but they’re also capable of causing serious skin complications and allergies. The artificial colours that are used are structured polymers and are next to impossible to decompose biologically. Every year, people die from poisoning from colored powder and water used during Holi celebrations…