Sunday, March 04, 2007

Holi: Festival of Colours.

Today was Holi, the Indian festival of colours heralding the coming of the glorious
Indian spring time. There are different myths of Hinduism associated with this festival. The common upshot of these myths on one hand is that Holi is a celebration of the negation of the dark powers which leave with the winter and the light giving power of the new spring is on the ascendant. On the other hand its associated with the love story of the popular deity Krishna and his consort Radha. As such this is a festival of romantic love associated with the burgeoning springtime and also about the love of the brotherhood of humankind.

The cold is yet to leave the vast Gangetic planes of North India. There is still a chill in the night air. Last night was a Lunar eclipse, although I was awake at 4:00 AM working, I did not get to see it. I heard it was very beautiful as the Moon assumed a copper-red or amber hue due to the eclipse. The photo of the copper-red moon appears at the top. The morning was sunny yet there was a chill in the air. Last few weeks have been strange for myself. Emotions and feelings long lost in time have surfaced again. I had always thought that the monotonic march of time and the suffering and pain of life has crushed these tenderness and feelings. Yet amazingly I find that they were always there, muted and silent waiting patiently for the right moment of clarity in life to surface.
I feel unfamiliar and float in a strange concoction of joy, pain, excitement and despair . The lines from one of Tagore's songs touches my mind

"The soft spring breeze plays with the flowers
And the melody of the cuckoo haunts every grove
Yet I cannot comprehend why my heart pines
With the emptiness of an unknown sorrow."

Holi is a period of joyous festivity where people sprinkle colours to welcome the spring which is also the season of romantic love. Although its a primarily Hindu festival many other communities join in too. It is customary on this day to visit friends and relations with sweets and colour. This festival also has many religio- cultural associations being linked with the romantic love of the deities Krishna and Radha. There are typical songs, dramas, dances, songs and music for Holi in almost every Indian language and culture and it varies over the regions. The morning is now streching into the day and people especialy children are out on the street or their courtyards sprinkling coloured water and powder on each other . The air is still cold but a glowing sun is slowly providing some warmth. On this day friends in groups travel from house to house singing and dancing and I see many such groups out on the streets. The coloured powders tinge the air with a reddish hue and one could almost believe that love is in the air.
The atmosphere brings back memories of youth and childhood when we played Holi with a lot of fervour. Nowadays its more customary for myself to be with friends for some quality cultural time and enjoy the holiday.

Suddenly a flash of the colour of flame and a radiantly beautiful face crosses my vision amidst the clouds of red colours. It triggers all the strange and long unfamiliar feelings to surface again. My mind is distracted and diffuse with these unfamilar sensations, tossing in the sea of my emotions. My whole world is instantly tinged with the colour of flame and the afterflash of that radiance. The day assumes a brighter hue and there seems to be a ethereal joy in the air and yet my heart aches with a sense of unknown loss and an indescribable sadness. It is strange for me as I pride myself in the hard control that I normaly exercise on my mind. But maybe I have held myself back for too long and its time to let all the feelings flow naturally.

Its late in the day now almost afternoon and the time for the main festival is almost over. There are fewer people on the street and its time to wash off the colours. In some communities there are also cultural meets in the evening and in others it streches to almost a week. The morning is over and I return home my heart floating in a strange mixture of an unknown pain and yet I feel a clear joy and a mixed feeling that simply cannot be described.