I celebrated the Holi festival of colours in New Delhi today
It’s also known as ‘the festival of sharing love’
Kena Dwivedi is a fresher studying Law at UEA, and she travelled home to New Delhi, India to celebrate Basanta Utsav, also known as the Holi festival of colours or the festival of sharing love.
We spoke to Kena after the celebrations today: “Shops and offices remain closed for the day and people get all the time to get crazy and whacky. Bright colours of gulal (powder colour) fill the air and people take turns in pouring colour water over each other. Children take special delight in spraying colours on one another with their pichkaris (water guns) and throwing water balloons and passers by. Women and senior citizen form groups move in colonies – applying colours and exchanging greetings.
Describing the scene and atmosphere, Kena says the highlights are: “Songs, dance to the rhythm of dholak (drums) and mouth-watering Holi delicacies, gujiya. Friends, family, everyone applies colours on each other, no matter what age they are! People hug and literally force people to apply colour – no matter how much the person says no, they will be covered in paint.
“That’s why there’s a saying ‘bura na mano holi hai’ which means ‘don’t feel offended it’s Holi’, because people forcefully throw colours and water balloons. The whole atmosphere is extremely happy and exciting.”
Revellers walk around armed with balloons filled with water or water colour: “Any stranger or friend or family member you throw them at, it will burst on contact and the person is painted from head to toe!”
“Every household will have gujiya. It is a sweet dumpling made up of wheat flour dipped in sugary syrup and filled with dry fruits. It is the ultimate sweet on this festival – to anyone you wish ‘happy Holi’, you give them a gujiya in order to show your happiness.”
“Ladies and girls they make this design, rangoli, with powder colour and coloured chalks to decorate their houses.”
Holi is a celebration for family and friends to come together, so there are grand spreads of food laid on throughout the day. Kena sent some pictures of the food and her family had:
“We have a drink called bhang that is most commonly known from its use and popularity during the Holi festival in India. It has also been used during certain Indian religious rituals for ages and serves as one of the origins for eating cannabis. Bhang is more often brewed into a drink rather than smoked – it is the natural intoxicant made from marijuana leaves and flowers.”
“The tradition of consuming the very intoxicating bhang on this day further enhances the spirit of Holi. It is so much fun to watch the otherwise sober people making a clown of themselves in full public display. You know how people act when they get high – it’s exactly like that!”
The rituals of Holi have continued through to the modern day: “We have a bonfire the evening before the actual Holi day. It’s known as Holika Dahan. Holika Dahan also Kamudu pyre is celebrated by burning Holika, the devil.
“For many traditions in Hinduism, Holi celebrates the death of Holika in order to save Prahlad, and thus Holi gets its name. In olden days, people used to contribute a piece of wood or two for Holika bonfire.”
“Asia’s largest jail produces gulal (colour powder). It is made by convicts in a quality- controlled environment. From IT giants to top-notch five-star hotels, many companies and families have gone to them for their paint powder this year.”
“All the colours are made through complete hand-made process. The only machine used is the digital weighing scale. They do not contain any heavy metals and are beneficial for the skin, as the normal colours we buy from markets do contain some chemical which might harm the skin so these herbal colours are better!
“In Prison Tihar the prisoners are taught some skills so that when they are released they have developed some skills to earn money – that’s what they do by learning how to make these colours.”
When asked if Kena is irritated by the new wave of Holi festivals springing up in Europe and the rest of the world in recent years, she says: “No, not at all! It’s a festival of love and colours”.
“Nobody is entitled to love, everyone should love and be loved by all”.