How holy is HOLI?

While the Indian festival of colours has always been the golden thread to cheesy, romantic Bollywood movies, it certainly isn’t a stranger to foreign lands! With big names within the entertainment industry organising Holi fests at various locations across the globe, it has garnered considerable curiosity internationally. Keeping up with the trend, and perhaps starting it within Ireland, Trinity’s Indian Society has brought this gem of an Indian festivity right down to Trinity’s Front Square. With over three hundred tickets sold within the first three hours of its ticket sales, the event is one to look out for. While the popularity of the festival is seldom questioned, it is the logic behind it that often piques interests. So… what is the logic behind it? Let’s find out!

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The ancient festival is drenched  in mythology. Essentially, the celebration marks the victory of good over evil- and that may well explain the medley of colours and the music. The legend goes thus…

There once lived a king so evil and self-assured that he enforced a law that everybody in the kingdom should worship him, and him alone. Unaccustomed to having his word violated, he did not even spare his own little son when the audacious child refused to acquiesce by continuing to worship the Almighty God. Infuriated by the defiance, he ordered his cavalry to have the prince thrown down a cliff. When such an attempt to get rid of the “rebel” failed, the King’s sister took it upon herself to ensure the end of such defiance lest it given rise to another mutiny (yes, something like The Hunger Games but more awesome). What made things eviler was that the sister, Holika, had an ability to resist burns caused by fire- effectively, leaving her unharmed- hence, the plan was to have her walk into a big ball of fire along with the child where he would burn down to ashes. However, as God would have it,  Holika turned to dust on entering the fire while the prince remained unscathed. The legend celebrates faith, devotion, humility, and purity of intentions.

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Running parallel is an equally popular legend fanning away the air of romance that Holi brings with it. The Indian counterpart to the love story of Romeo and Juliet runs way back in time engraving Hindu mythology with the love ballad of Radha and Krishna. Young Krishna, perplexed by his dark complexion in contrast to the beautiful Radha who had a light, creamy complexion, wondered why he was dusky- so different to the love of his life. His mother playfully suggested that he should smear colour on Radha’s face too and change it to whichever that he best preferred. Intrigued by the suggestion, Krishna went ahead and splashed colour across his childhood love’s face which gave rise to a rather flirtatious interaction. Thus, the idea of Holi emerged. Undoubtedly, it is a festival where love and affection is celebrated.

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So why does everyone love this festival so much? To start with, the stories behind it are quite captivating (at least to me), and these are the ones I grew up with, living in India. However, the festival goes way deeper than these stories which intrigue us.

Out of everything else, I appreciate the festival most for the meaning it conveys. On this day, all barriers created by social or economic construct, based on sex, caste and creed come crashing down to bare humanity to just a collection of people where differences are celebrated,  not criticised. This is the time when masses come together to celebrate communally. It’s a festival where one makes new friends without getting charmed by the other’s social status or beauty (yes, underneath all that colour, your stellar features take a back seat). To me Holi underlines a sense of community, unity, love and celebration- and of course, immeasurable “craic”! So, see you this Wednesday in the Front Square?

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-Aishwarya

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