“Holi hai! Holi hai,” shouted the young and old as the fight of colours started after the fire was lit at the Swami Narayan mandir on Saturday.
Hundreds of families thronged the temple in white and old clothes to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. “It’s a time of celebration but never wear your best clothes on Holi,” cautioned an elderly woman who had come with her grandsons and daughters.
Newly wed couples, celebrating their first Holi after their weddings, were the first ones to reach the ground. Brides dressed in their red and green wedding saris, decorated with heavy copper, gold and silver sequins, come with their husbands to receive blessings. “They don’t want their wedding dresses to get stained,” quipped one woman mischieviously. Each couple first did the pooja (worship) before again taking the seven rounds around the fire.
While the children were busy spraying each other with colours against a backdrop of Indian Holi songs, the women were busy with pooja, performing the customary rituals of sprinkling rice into the fire, and milk around it.
According to another custom, a pot full of chickpeas is set in the middle of the vertical logs of the fire and it cooks the whole night. In the morning, the cooked chickpeas are checked to access and predict the harvest of the year. If they are raw it suggests that the harvest will be bad, explained Nandlal Bhatia, an organiser.
“It won’t be cold for a single more day here,” remarked Bhatia, speaking from 64 years of experience. Holi marks the end of winter.
The fire will be extinguished early morning with pots of water but the colour fights will continue well into the night and into the next day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2011.
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