Holi

          Celebrated with gay abandon by all sects of Hindus with fascinating rituals, the festival of Holi brings people togather.

          Like other parts of Rajasthan, Mewar is well known the world over for its fascinating festivals, traditions and rituals. With  the change of season is celebrated Holi that provides opportunities for enjoying together, worshipping together, singing together, eating together and the like. All this adds colour to the drab life of the people.

          In the State time on the 14th Phagun Shukla, in the morning the Maharana used to play Holi with his courtiers in Badi Mahal. As Phagun advanced, the Bacchanalian mirth increased. Groups of people used to continually patrol the streets, throw crimson powder at each other or eject a solution of it from syringes, so that the garments and visages were one mass of crimson. On the 8th Phagun Shukla, called the Phag, the Maharana would join the queens and their attendants in the palace, when all restraint was removed and there was unlimited mirth. Each Chief who chose to join had plentiful supply of missiles, formed of thin plates of mica or talc enclosing this crimson powder, called ‘abira’. With the most graceful and dextrous horsemanship they used to dart the missiles at each other, pursuing, and jesting. In the reign of Maharana Swarupsingh, Holi was celebrated in a special way. On a large number of elephants were mounted all the ‘thakurs’ and elite of Udaipur. The Maharana would also mount an elephant. Every one threw the red powder at each other till great clouds of red dust rose.

          After this the Maharana would play Holi with the public in the main streets of the town and go to Naulakha in Sajjan Niwas Bagh where a feast was arranged by him. Then he would return to his palace, have a bath, change his dress and hold a ‘darbar’ at Naginabadi in the afternoon. All the ‘durbaris’ present there were given ‘Khande’, wooden swords and coconuts.

          After this, according to ‘muharat’, the Maharana would perform ‘pujan’ and light the Holi fire and later on after the ‘pujan’ of Holi of Bada Chowk he would light the Holi fire. Only after this, Holi fire could be lit by the public. The Maharani would get dress and money from the Maharana. The next day on ‘dulandi’ the Maharana would stay in the palace and the employees were allowed to go home and enjoy with their family and friends. Puja of Kamdeo was also performed by ‘jyotishis’ in the Rajmahal.

          Now a days, the whole city begins to vibrate with joyous festive vibes days in advance. On the main streets can be seen persons of Vagaria and other communised singing and dancing on the beats of ‘chang’ and ‘thal’ and asking for ‘shagun’ money. The shops are crowded by excited children buying ‘pichkaris’ of different sizes and shapes with stickers of political leaders, film stars and characters of tv serials. An interesting development during the last couple of year is the replacement of chemical colours by the, sweet smelling natural colours prepared with flowers and leaves by the tribals of neighbouring area that has in turn become a source of income for them. This ‘gulal’ is in great demand in India and abroad.

          With the beginning of Holastak, a week before Holi, special celebrations start attracting devotees to the temples in Udaipur. Parties of singers from Nathdwara Srinath temple come to the Srinath Mandir, Udaipur to sing ‘rasia’ songs. So also those from Brij to sing songs composed by poet Raskhan Jagdish Mandir also draws a large number of devotees from far and near to participate enthusiastically in ‘bhajan’ singing and other programmes. According to an old tradition, thousands of villagers of Pherapheri do not work on Ekadashi and visit this Mandir to worship the Lord.

          As the time for Holi Dahan approaches, people start gathering at spots where Holikas have been set up. A branch of the ‘semal’ tree is set up in the middle and it is surrounded by small branches, twigs, pieces of plywood, hay and cowdung ‘uplas’ made by girls and women. Firecrackers are also put in the middle. At the appointed auspicious time, some rituals are performed and the fire lit. There is a feeling of elation as the flames go up. People go round the fire and start greeting one another. Dhoond ceremony of the new-born babies is performed for their good health and welfare.

          On the day after Holika Dahan comes Dulandi when the whole town goes gay, smearing faces with ‘gulal’ and colours and sprinkling water. Revelry is in the air. Old differences are forgetten and people hug each other affectionately.

          On the third day is celebrated Bhaiya Dooj when brother-sister relations are revived. The festival is also known as Yamadwitiya. As the legend goes, after creating the universe, Lord Brahma asked Dharmaraj to keep an account of the deeds performed by all the human beings. To help the latter in this stupendous task the Lord created Chitragupta from his ‘kaya’ so he was also called Kayasth. As Kayasth community keeps the record  using a pen, it is as important for them as the sword is for the Rajputs. Chitragupta with his pen and inkpot is reverently worshipped by the Kayasthas on Yamadwitya.

          The Sindhi community of Udaipur has some fascination traditions. Pieces of wheat dough are baked on burning coal to make ‘Koki’. Sindhi ‘ghewar’ is offered as ‘prasad’ after Holi ‘pujan’. Ghewars in auspicious numbers are sent to daughters and sisters. Bereaved families are offered ‘ghewar’ to end the period of ‘shok’.

          The Marathi community celebrates Holi on Rang Panchami in their native state. However, after being in Udaipur for a long time it celebrates Holi on Dhulandi. Garlands made of cowdung, home made ‘pakvans’ and sugar ‘batashai’ are offered to the Holi fire. They go round the fire with a ‘lota’ full of water placed in a ‘thali’. Holi songs are sung. Puranpoli is a  part of dinner. The Bengali Samaj pays  respect to the elders by putting ‘gulal’ at their feet. They play with water on Dhulandi evening. For dinner they have ‘malpua’, ‘puri’, ‘dumaalu’ etc. They meet at Bung Bhawan after the festifval. The people of Pravasi Agrawal Samaj visit their relations on Dhulandi. Later on in the Sneh Sammelan there is a lot of fun and frolick. There is a lot of singing among the Uttarakhand Samaj. During Khadi Holi celebrations, pieces of cloth are collected from the families out of which a stick is made that is circulated among the families and finally offered to the Holi fire. Songs are sung by the people of Bhattmewada Samaj in the Mahalaxmi Mandir. They visit homes where someone had died in the preceding year for condolence. There is a ‘mela’ like scene in the Juna Basti where Banjara community from different parts of the city assemble.    

          During Holi Mewar becomes the venue of fascinating scenes. In Menar  drum beating goes on all the day long at Onkareshwar Chouraha. The people with swords tied round the waist and carrying swords and guns in their hands come together. Groups of people followed by women carrying Kalash on the head and singing songs of valour converge at the main chowk. Guns are fired in the air, feats with swords are performed and the history of Menar village and Menaria Samaj is read out. Tamatar Rad, tomato fight, in which tomatoes are thrown by two parties of young men is organized in Dedarwada. In village Bhiluda two parties used to indulge in a stone throwing competition at each other but it has been stopped now. Over ten thousand tribal folks perform Ger dance in the premises of the famous Tripura Sundari Mandir near  Banswara.

          The fun-filled festival of Holi is not only an occasion to enjoy oneself fully and freely but also end enemity and live in harmony.

Content Courtesy Dr. Rajendra Purohit

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