Holi Musings: The Current State Of The Festival In India

As you are reading this, it is probably the eve of Holi or the day of Holi, one of the largest festivals of India – a celebration of spring, a celebration of the colours of nature, a celebration of all things pure. Let me start off by wishing each one of you a happy and wonderful Holi. May you enjoy the day to the fullest with your family and loved ones. However, today, I also want to talk about the ugly side of the festival, and how beautiful traditions have been distorted into something vile by certain elements of the society.

Kindly bear in mind that my intention is not at all to malign the tradition of Holi, in fact, it is a festival that I have loved since I was a child, all I am speaking against is the misinterpretation and misuse of Holi by a few. For those of you who are unaware of the tradition of Holi, it is a festival in which we welcome spring by smearing colours on the faces of our loved ones and enjoying sweet treats with our friends and family. The more enthusiastic individuals also spray coloured water on each other with the help of spray guns and water balloons. However, I recently came across a terrifying post on Facebook where a girl talks about a water balloon filled with semen being flung at her in the guise of Holi celebrations. If you dig deeper and talk to a few people, you will hear about many incidents of strangers throwing water balloons at pedestrians who were just going about their daily life and of people inappropriately touching others while playing Holi. The phrase “Bura na maano Holi hai”  (Do not mind it because it is Holi) has been misinterpreted beyond proportion by these people who indulge in physical and sexual abuse in the name of Holi.

While the phrase “Bura na maano Holi hai” was probably meant to encourage everyone to play with colours and not to be shy of indulging in the festivities, I am confident that our forefather who coined the term never intended for it to mean that physical or sexual violence should be ignored or forgiven on Holi. What is worse is that such behaviour often starts off at a very young age, when children are allowed to spray colours on strangers and fling water ballons at passers by on the day of Holi. As a parent or guardian, it is our responsibilty to teach our children that they should play Holi only with their acquaintances who are willing to participate in the festivities and should not be forcing someone to play Holi or be rough while applying colours on someone. They should be taught to be careful while celebrating the festival, to ensure their safety as well as the safety of others. What also needs to stop are the Holi song sequences in Bollywood where the guy unabashedly smears colours all over the woman who was not paying much attention to him till the previous day. Encouraging others to play with organic colours and to use powder colours to save water is also something that can make the festival safer for us and the environment. However, the most important step that we can take is to strongly discourage and admonish anyone, be it an adult or an child, for playing dangerous or disgusting pranks on anyone and for even splashing colours on an unwilling stranger or friend.

The next time someone tries to put colour on you forcefully, do refuse with an emphatic no. Holi is about much more than being the target of every water balloon or spray gun pointed at your face. It is a day to enjoy the warmer weather and some quality time with those you love. Let us try to put the phrase “Bura na maano Holi hai” into perspective and allow ourselves and others to enjoy the festival as we/they want to.

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