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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Holi



Introduction
March 23, 2016 begins the Hindu holiday of Holi or the “Festival of Colors.”  Holi is celebrated as a Spring festival, and indeed in Bengali tradition, part of the holiday is actually called Basant-Utsav which in Bengali means Spring Festival. In many traditions, Holi actually begins with the lighting of bonfires on Holi Eve (for 2016, the evening of March 22). Employees, staff and students should be accommodated for religious observance.

Colored powders used
for Holi
Holi customarily lasts three days in most Hindu traditions, although in some traditions may last up to 16 days. Holi is generally a time of boisterous celebration marked by such lack of inhibitions that people are allowed to do all sorts of things they would not normally be allowed to do. These include saying outrageous things (notably the allowable use of vulgar jokes), laughing at others, playing in puddles. Most famously, Holi is a time for celebrating with bright colors. The main means for this is with colored powder that friends and family apply to one another. It is also common to throw colored powder or squirt water colored with powder at friends, relatives and even passers-by. An expression common to Holi is the Hindi phrase  Bura na mano, Holi hai. (Don’t mind this, it’s Holi).

Holi received considerable attention in Europe and the Americas when the holiday featured prominently in the popular romantic comedy Outsourced. The film was released in 2006 and had the two leads Todd Anderson (played by Josh Hamilton) and Puro (played by Asif Basra) participating in Holi activities unwillingly at first and then with great enthusiasm.

Religious Significance of Holi

Religiously, Holi is tied to the victory of Prahlad over the demon Holika, which in itself is a representation of the victory of good over evil. Holi takes its name from Holika.


Prahalad and Holika in the fire
The story goes that the wicked king Hiranyakashipu ordered everyone to worship him. His son Prahlad, though, as a devoted follower of the Lord Vishnu, refused to do so. Hiranyakashipu then ordered his demon-sister Holika to kill Prahlad. Holika had the power to be unharmed by fire and so tried to kill Prahlad by picking him up and walking through fire with him. Prahlad, though, chanted the names of God and was as a result unharmed by the fire. Holika, however, did not know that her power to walk through fire unharmed was only intact if she walked through the fire alone. She therefore perished in the flames.  Bonfires have ever since been part of the traditional celebration of Holi.

While virtually all traditions of Hinduism recognize the ties of Holi to Prhalad and Holika, other traditions also tie Holi to other Hindu stories. Some worshipers associate with Holi the Kamadeva legend in which Lord Shiva opened his third eye burning up the love deity Kamadeva. For those following the Kamadeva tradition, worshipers make offerings of mango flowers and sandalwood.

The practice of throwing colored water or powder has its origins in another Hindu legend, that of the love between Lord Krishna and Radha. Lord Krishna as part of the story applied colored powder to Radha’s face. Also, since Lord Krishna played many pranks on people (including throwing colored powder on them) when he was young, the playing of pranks on Holi also is tied to this.

Some Holi Traditions 

Holi is known by many names by different traditions and in different languages where Hinduism is practiced. While all of these names refer to the same holiday, but each name also reflects regional differences in the way in which Holi is practiced.

Uttar Pradesh

The people of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh bill themselves as the "hub of Holi." This is because Uttar Pradesh is home to the birthplace of both Lord Krishna at Nandgaon and of his beloved Radha at Barsana. Since the entire tradition of throwing colored water and powders derives from the love story of Lord Krishna and Radha, it makes sense that at Holi their birthplaces would be major centers of pilgrimage as people travel there to venerate them

Radha and her friends striking 
Lord Krishna with lathis
The Holi season begins just before Holi with the celebration of Lathmaar Holi. In Lathmaar Holi, women re-enact Radha and her female friends using lathi sticks to chase away Lord Krishna after his practicial jokes and teasing became too much for her.

Women from Radha's village of Barsana dress in traditional outfits for the holiday and carry lathis. These are long cane sticks of the same sort used in the martial arts of the same name.

Lathmaar Holi in Barsana, Mathura
Men from Lord Krishna's town of Nandgaon then come the roughly 20 kilometers to Barsana carrying shields. When they reach Barsana's Radha Rani Temple, the men sing teasing songs at the women who then chase after them. The women then hit at the Nandgaon men who defend themselves with shields. The men are not allowed to strike back so that the women always win, re-enacting the success of Radha is shooing off the teasing Lord Krishna. Most of the men escape but every year a few are not so fortunate and are captured by their female pursuers who then make their captives wear women's clothing and dance in public. 

Thandai
The atmospher of Lathmaar Holi is one of wild abandon.  The air near the temple is made thick with incense and flower petals. Throughout the battle between the men and women, both sexes drink a special cold thandai unique for that day. Thandai is a cold drink usually made of milk, water, rose petals, watermelon seeds, anise, poppy seeds, cardamom, peppercorns, saffron and almonds that is served throughout much of nothern India. What makes the Lathmaar Holi thandai so special is that it is laced with marijuana for the day. A recipe for thandai (without the cannabis) can be found at:

 http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-specials-holi-recipes-thandai-dahi-vada-and-more/20110317.htm


Gujarat

In the state of Gujarat people have a special tradition around buttermilk based on Lord Krishna's fondness for stealing unguarded buttermilk and butter from homes. A greeting unique to Gujarat for Holi is warn people to guard their butter and milk.

In Gujarat, boys form human pyramids
reach a buttermilk pot and become Holi King
The culmination of the buttermilk tradition comes in the crowning of the Holi King. In villages throughout Gujarat, an earthenware pot is filled with buttermilk and then hung high in the air from a rope. The boys of the village form a giant human pyramid to reach the pot. As they climb on to one another's backs, girls from the village and other onlookers throw colored water on them which adds to the exuberance of the event.

The title of Holi King is bestowed on the boy who is finally able to break open the pot and let the buttermilk come pooring. In some villages, this is accompanied by an actual prize, but in many others, being named Holi King is prize enough.

Goa


The Shigmo Parade in Panaji, Goa
includes elaborate floats of Hindu dieties
In Goa, Holi is called Shigmo (or Shishirotsava) in the local language of Konkani. Throughout Goa, Hindus go to their local temples to ritually bathe the statue of the main dieties there.
The state government of Goa funds many events for Shimgo in the capital city of Panaji. These include street dance performances, folk music and dance shows, and most importantly the Panaji Shigmo Parade with floats showing religious scenes related to the holiday. Many of the floats feature huge images of various Hindu dieties, some mechanically operated to move and gesture. The parade includes a range of participants from all castes and cultures in the state. These include people performing various regional dances, flame-throwers, acrobats, brass bands, special marchers with colored umbrellas, and people dressed as various dieties. This also includes men playing special large drums rolled on special carts and beaten from a distance with long handled sticks.

The state government of Goa sponsors Shigmo events for 14 days, including many outside of Panaji in other towns and in rural areas.


West Bengal and Bangladesh

In Bengali tradition, Holi is celebrated as Dol Purnima (or the Swing Festival) and, as mentioned above, with observance of a Basant-Utsav (or Vasanta Utsav, the Spring Festival).

The Bengal celebration of the holiday is somewhat unique in its dignifiied atmosphere in observing the holiday. In contrast to almost everywhere else in the Hindu world where Holi is celebrated with considerable abandon, for Bengal Dol's Purnima and Baasant-Utsav the atmosphere is more reserved and dignified.

Dol Purnima Procession
at Shntiniketan, West Bengal
Dol Purnima (also called Dolyatra)  is an ancient Bengal celebration honoring Lord Krishna. On this day, people dress in saffron robes for a great procession. At the center of the procession is a swinging litter called a palki, which they decorate with garlands of flowers and brightly colored cloth. They then adorn a statue of Lord Krishna with colored powder and place it in the palki, which they then carry through the streets. As the procession moves, people blow conch shells and shout "Jai" ("Victory"). The name Dol Purnima means "Swing Festival" because the litter carrying Lord Krishna swings back and forth as it is carried.

Rabidranath Tagore
While Dol Purnima has been celebrated for centuries, the observance of Basant Utsav was actually only introduced in the early 20th century by the Nobel Laureate Rabidranath Tagore. To build on the tradition of Holi in an intellectually and spiritually uplifting sense, Tagore lived at the time in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, and because of this focused his attentions on Bishwabharati University, and started what he called Basant Utsav, or the Spring Festival, there.

Because Tagore was among the best-known Indians worldwide, the Basant Utsav attracted international attention from its very start. Today, Shantiniketan has become a center not only of Bengali celebration of Holi but as a major tourist destination from across India and beyond.

Dance performance
at Bishwabharati University 
The Basant Utsav events at Bishwabharati University involve special shows including major dance performances and group choreography, musical performances and a wide variety of other cultural programming. The Bishwabharati University students as well as local children in the city dress in special outfits of saffron and other bright colors.

Finally, at the end of the events, as with Holi celebrations elsewhere in India, the participants paint each other in brightly colored powders.

Nepal

Nepal, the only officially Hindu nation, celebrates Holi for a full week. In Nepal, another name for the holiday is Phagu which is the name for a sacred red powder.

Nepalese Chir
The holiday begins on the first day with a tradition unique to Nepal: the setting up of the chir. The chir is a long bamboo pole on which brightly colored cloth is hung. Each strip of cloth represents a good luck charm for the coming year.

The chir is tied to Lord Krishna and his teasing of young women. The Nepalese tradition tells of an incident where Lord Krishna came upon a group of young women all bathing in the Yamuna River in what they thought was total privacy. The mischievous deity then hung all of their clothing high in a tree well out of their reach. Some versions of the story say that the reason the women were all bathing at once was also related to a trick of Lord Krishna, who had covered them all with colored powder.

The festival culminates at the end of the week with the dousing of each other with colored water. In Nepal, the colored water is held in lolas (a type of water balloons) that people throw at family and friends. Finally, at the close of day on the last nigh of the festival, the chir is set on fire in a communal bonfire. The burning of the cloth strips serve as offerings for good luck.


 Conclusion

As with all of these religious observance posts, this is meant only as informational. Nothing I have written here or in any of these blogs is intended to indicate what is or is not the proper way to worship or observe traditions.

Also, while I have researched these to the best of my ability, if I have made an error, please inform me. Finally, I am aware that Holi is a varied holiday and has many traditions that were not covered here. Please feel free to add your own traditions or thoughts at the end of this blog.

Happy Holi! Holi Hai!



Want to Read More?

"Festivals of Nepal: Holi," Nepal Travel Guide:  http://www.nepalhomepage.com/society/festivals/fagupurnima.html

"Holi," BBC Religions: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/holydays/holi_1.shtml

"Holi," Religion Facts.com:  http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/holidays/holi.htm

"Holi," Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India: http://www.holifestival.org/

"Holi Customs," I Love India.com: http://festivals.iloveindia.com/holi/holi-customs.html
"Holi: Festival of Colours," The Colors of India: http://www.thecolorsofindia.com/holi.html

"Holi, The Festival of Colours," India Express.com: http://www.indiaexpress.com/rangoli/holi.html

"Holika Dahan -- the Bonfire or Lighting of Fire before Holi," Hindublog.com http://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/03/holika-dahan-2008-bonfire-or-lighting.html

"Shigmo in Panjim," Goacom: http://www.goacom.com/culture/religion/shigmo/

"Vasanta Utsav (or Basanta Utsab) and Holi," The Holiday Spot: http://www.theholidayspot.com/holi/vasanta_utsav.htm



Clip Art Sources


Happy Holi: http://www.wiseshe.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Happy-Holi.png.jpg

Holi colored powders: http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/holidays/holi.htm

Prahalad and Holika in the fire: http://www.hindu-blog.com/2008/03/holika-dahan-2008-bonfire-or-lighting.html

Radha and her friends beat Lord Krishna lathis: http://www.bloggermoms.com/wp-content/uploads/holi-3.jpg

Lathmaar Holi in Barsana, Mathura: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110320/nat6.jpg

Thandai: http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-specials-holi-recipes-thandai-dahi-vada-and-more/20110317.htm

Gujarat boys forming human pyramid:   http://www.theholidayspot.com/holi/graphics/team.jpg

Dol Purnima Procession at Shntiniketan, West Bengal: The Holiday Spot: http://www.theholidayspot.com/holi/graphics/ghy3.jpg

Tagore: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tagore3.jpg

Dance performance at Bishwabharati University: http://www.theholidayspot.com/holi/graphics/ghy3.jpg

Nepalese chir: http://www.nepalhomepage.com/society/festivals/fagupurnima.html

Holi Hai image: http://www.kamalascorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/holi-hai.jpg

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