Even after 8 years of my marriage, the Holi festival brings with it the most colorful memories of my childhood. It was the time when we were free to roam painted in colors, gorging on Holi delicacies and having fun together!
The most of my vivid Holi memories come from the fact that I was lucky enough to be born and brought up in a joint family. The festival which is known to bring people together, used to bond us all more closely to each other.
I remember the spirit of festivity flowing in the air of my house. The Holi preparations used to begin almost one week before the official date of the festival. The ladies of the house used to remain busy preparing the Holi Pakwaans (Holi delicacies) in advance. The Gujiyas, the Samosas, the Laddoos, The Mathris, The Papris , the Vadas… mouthwatering… all of them…..!!!
Holika Dahan (Sacred Bonfire) has its own significance and represents the triumph of the young prince,Prahlad to his father, Hiranyakashyap and aunt, Holika. Preparation for this sacred bonfire also used to start days before. The cow dung used to spread on the terrace at least 5 days before the actual festival so that it is dried properly in time. Since we had a large family and a large house, the Holika Dahan used to set in court of the house itself. (Most of the people perform this ritual at the intersection of the roads or in some ground, etc.).One day before the Holi, we used to set the bonfire. The base of this bonfire was used to be made of the bricks with the wooden sticks standing on that base. Thereafter, garlands of the dried cow dungs were put around those sticks. With that, it was all set to be lighted up the next day.
On the day of the Holi, the very first thing we girls used to do in the morning was to apply a layer of coconut oil on our hair and skin to stay protected from the probable damage by the toxic chemicals in the colors. We used to apply a thick coat of nail paint on our nails and wear old clothes. As per the Muhurat, the men in the house used to light the bonfire, usually before dawn. They also used to bring sugarcane stems to be held in one hand while doing the Holika Pujan. The entire environment seemed to look so serene and pious!
While Men do the Pujan, the females of the house used to decorate Gulals in the plates. The holi delicacies, accompanied by Thandai, prepared by them were also made available on a table so that everyone who comes to wish and greet Holi could be served instantly. After the Pujan, men would hug each other wishing Holi. Each of us used to extend color pigments in the faces of other family members, friends and strangers who used to come in our way. In the beginning we used to play the dry holi and later come the actual one.
The elders of the house used to direct us to play the holi at the terrace so that the house doesn’t get spoiled with colors. Small kids were given colored water in a tub with a mug and water-guns. They used to throw colors from the terrace to all those who crossed the streets. The older kids used to show their color power on each other with hard colors. One by one, eventually everyone used to get painted with vibrant colors to the extent that they become almost unrecognizable. Among the gang, there were some cousins who used to hide themselves behind the doors of their rooms and it was treated as a big accomplishment to paint them with colors once they open the door and say #BuraNaManoHoliHai!:) 😛 The music was played loudly with the Holi specials, Rang Barse being the official Holi legend! This used to continue for what seemed as hours. After when everyone used to get tired, it would be the time to go downstairs and finally remove the colors. My mother used to prepare various home-made scrubs so that the color can come out easily but with the kind of Holi that we used to play, it was never easy to get rid of the traces of those colors even days after. You won’t believe but even week after the festival, every time when we used to wash our hair, the color would come out. The festivity hangover used to remain days after the festival is gone.
Such was the beauty of the every Holi that I played in my childhood. It always brings back my favorite childhood memories. I really wonder if my kids will also have such memories associated with the festival? I personally feel that amidst the fashion of the apartments and the group Holi played in a dedicated space, the real essence of the traditional Holi celebrations is gone. I really want my kids to have the similar Holi emotions and memories like mine to accompany them forever. This is the thought that inspires my husband and me to every year celebrate Holi in our hometown wherein our kids enjoy the festival with their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. I feel glad to see them dwelling in the madness of Holi by saying #HoliHai and having fun all the way. All I want is to lift their spirit with the joy of colors and fill them with the best of their childhood memories for lifetime. I cherish that Holi is a festival that brings out the child in me and truly believe that you are never too old to play with colors. Bade ho to kya, Khulkekhelo wahi Bachpan Wali holi!