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Festivals of Colors

The season of spring as a harbinger of joy is a metaphor common to most civilizations. In India, too, March is a beautiful month when the wintry sun begins to turn warm and the days get longer, not to mention the flowers blooming in full splendour.

It is in this month that the festival of Holi is celebrated. Historically speaking Holi is probably a pagan festival that finds root in celebrations similar to that of Valentine’s Day.

Both find their source in fertility rituals and symbolize unbridled joy. All over the east, the manner of celebrating this festival has been to smear each other’s face with rice powder, where rice powder is symbolic of fertility. Today, however, the northern part of India has incorporated many other influences turning Holi into a colourful and even sophisticated festival, as it was played by the royalty of Rajasthan.

A legend associated with the God of love, Kama, is told at this time. It is said that he was burnt to ashes because he had the temerity to fling his arrows on none other than the austere Siva who was doing penance. Goddess Parvati, however, brought him back to life for he was acting at her behest. This festival celebrates love.

Another legend says that once a mighty king called Hiranyakashyapu ruled on earth. He was so arrogant that he became a difficult ruler and even the Gods balked at his arrogance. Meanwhile Hiranyakashyapu decided to coronate himself a God Almighty Himself.

He had a son called Prahlad who was hurt to see his father behaving thus. He insisted that his father, however powerful and majestic, could not replace God. But Hiranyakashyapu’s powers were growing by the minute and he was in no mood to believe his son, after all he was a little boy not even ten year of age.

Many mighty dialogues and fierce attempts took place to convince Prahlad that his father was indeed mightier than God Himself. One day Prahlad was made to sit on the lap of Hiranyakashyapu’s sister. The sister had got a boon from fire God that she would never succumb to flames. So the aunt and nephew were made to sit on a seat of glowing fire. The aunt named Holika succumbed inspite of the boon and the nephew came out unhurt. To celebrate this episode through which God conveyed the fact that he protected those who trusted him, Holi is celebrated.

In a place called Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna, the festival Holi is celebrated with great gaiety. Here it is said that baby Krishna, while he was still in the cradle, killed a demoness who had come to feed him. Her destruction and the first the first evidence given by the child of his divine powers are celebrated as Holi. Even today it is a festival worth celebrating in these temples.

Generally people of different communities meet and throw colour powder on each other amidst complete abandonment.

On March 21 the Parsis celebrate Jamshed Navroz, their new year. It is also known as Pateti, the Day of Repentance, when they recite a prayer of Repentance. This festivalis said to have begun in Persia under the rule of King Jamshed and so it is called Jamshed Navroz.