Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…


Published in Express Tribune Blogs here > http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/33221/you-can-play-holi-too-even-if-you-are-muslim/

 

Phagwa, more commonly known as Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun, is a festival that heralds the arrival of spring. Played with dry and wet color, it is a symbolic expression for the changing temperatures and the blossoming fields.

Since very young, on the morning of Holi, I saw my Muslim parents being called at the gates of our house in Delhi, by a group of faces immersed in colors, who all looked almost identical. As my parents walked out, they were enthusiastically smeared with color by the crowd, and they too lost their identity with crowd.  It left no clue as to who was who, when they roared together with laughter and excitement.  As we siblings grew up, we joined in too, with our set of friends.

Holi, as I envision it,  is a perfect way to depict a spirit of universal brotherhood beyond color, creed, caste or social status.

If  taken in it’s true spirits, Holi never was and never is meant to be a religious festival to be celebrated by a select faith.

Though, like other religious festivals, it too claims a legend with a victory of the good over the evil ( The Story of Holika). However, from the context of its current celebration, it is said to have begun by the love duo Krishna and Radha.
Krishna as a young boy, being extremely dark complexioned, complained to his mother Yashoda, why was he dark, while his beloved Radha fair?

The conversation between a complaining son, and  his doting mother,  is  narrated beautifully, in a famous folk song:

Yashomati mayya sey bole Nand Lala,
Radha kyun gori, main kyun kala?
Boli muskaati Mayya, Sun merey pyaare,
Gori gori Radhika ke, nain kajrare,
Kaale nainon waali ney, aisa jadu dala,
Tuu isee liye  kaala.

(Krishna asks mother Yashoda: “Why am I dark, while Radha is so fair?”
Mother  smiles and replies: “Listen my dear, the fair Radha’s kohl eyes have swept you with their magic, and hence are you so dark.)

And one day teasingly to console Krishna she is said to have told him: “What’s in a color? Go and smear Radha’s face with any color you like.”
And Krishna out of love for Radha, smeared her with red color( gulaal).

Legend claims that  thus began  the playing of colors ( Holi khelna), between Krishna and Radha along with her friends referred to as Gopis.

Their romance with playing Holi has been immortalized in many miniature painting s:
HoliRadhaKrishna1

Another one, with in Mughal art:
HoliRadhaKrishna2

Mughal Emperors  too fancied Holi, for its association with color and romance. They brought the practice of playing Holi to their courts and palaces.

Akber is no surprise, knowing his secular conviction and a Hindu Queen, Joda Bai.

Jehangir, the romantic art connoisseur, is documented to have played Holi with his Queen Noor Jehan in his palace and called it Eid-e-Gulabi. It isnt hard to imagine the ecstatic aroma and aura that must have been created in the palace by red gulaal,  rose petals ( gulab paashi) and   rose water (aab paashi) being sprinkled during the royal play.

Auranzeb’s fancy for the colors of Holi came as a surprise to me. Writes Lane Poole in biography Auranzeb: “During his time there used to be several groups of Holi singers who besides reciting libertine lyrics also indulged in salaciousness, accompanied by various musical instruments.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses on Holi now are sung as part of the phaag ( folk songs of Holi). One of the most sung verses being:

Kyo Mo Pe Rang Ki Maari Pichkaari
Dekho Kunwar Ji Doongi Mein Gaari
(Why drench me with color spray,
now my prince, I will swear at you)

Bahut Dinan Mein Haath Lage Ho Kaise Jane Doon
Aaj Phagwa To Son Ka Tha Peeth Pakad Kar Loon.
(
After long have you come in my hands, how will I let you go?
Today is Holi, and perfect time to catch hold of you)

This is Mughal Emperor Jehangir playing Holi in his palace:
HoliJehangir

Sufi poets too eulogized the Radha Krishna romance and Holi, when expressing their love for their revered Sufi Saints or even God.

To begin with  Sufi poets, it is Shah Niaz’s ‘s Hori Ho Rahi hai, (immortalized by Abida Parveen):

Holi hoye rahi hai Ahmad Jiya ke dwaar
Hazrat Ali ka rang bano hai Hassan Hussain khilaar
Aiso holi ki dhoom machi hai chahoon or pari hai pukaar
Aiso anokho chatur khiladi rang deeyon sansaar
“Niaz” pyaara bhar bhar chidke ek hi raang sahas pichkaar.

(Holi is happening at beloved, Ahmed’s (saww) doorsteps.
Color has become of Hazrat Ali (as) and Hasan (as), Hussain (as) are playing.
It has become such a bustling scene of Holi that it has become talk of the town,
people are calling others from all over,
What unique and clever players (Hasan and Hussain) that they colored the entire world.
Niaz (the poet) sprinkles bowlfuls of color all around,
the same color that comes out of thousands of pichkaaris ( spray guns).)
{Thanks to Ali Rehman @Baahirezaman for the translation}.

Bulleh Shah also played Holi with his Master:

Hori khailoongi keh kar Bismillah
Naam nabi ki rattan charhi, bond pari Illalah
Rang rangeli ohi khilawe, jo sakhi howe fana fi Allah

(I shall play Holi, beginning with the name of Allah.
The name of Prophet is enveloped with light,
He only makes us play with colors, who annihilates with Allah)

Amir Khusro  relates to  Holi through multiple fascinating ways, in various places. Khusrau refers  not just to the color, or the play but of  the birth place of Krishna Mathura in the famous Aaj Rung hai rey:

Gokal dekha, Mathra dekha,
par tosa na koi rang dekha
Ey main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Purab dekha pacham dekha
uttar dekha dakkan dekha
Re main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Tora rang man bhaayo Moinuddin
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang le Khwaja ji
Mohe rang basanti rang de Khwaja Ji
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang de

{In summary: I saw Gokul, Mathura ( bith place of Krishna) and even East to West I roamed, but I did not find anyone with a color like yours. My heart is enamored by your color, hence color me in your shade, my master.}

Another lesser know verse I came across is:

Khelooongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye,
Dhan dhan bhaag hamarey sajni,
Khaaja aaye aangan merey..
( I shall play Holi as Khaaja has come to my home,
Blessed is my fortune, O’ friend,
as Khaaja has come to my courtyard.)

Needless to repeat, there are ample such examples.  No matter how much one may attempt, it is impossible to separate the two inter-meshed   cultures coexistent for centuries in the subcontinent. These celebrations of culture are all about love and inclusion, and absolutely nothing about hate and discrimination.

Let’s celebrate then, with an open heart !

Here is the link to Amir Khusrau’s Kheloongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye:

Comments on: "Kheloongi Holi ( I shall play Holi)" (6)

  1. Great post, Ilmana.
    I am reminded of this lovely Nazeer Akbarabadi ghazal on Holi

  2. Beautiful post Ilmana!

  3. Wonderful post. You show me things I know nothing about, I love that!

  4. Very very touching article Ilmana…..

  5. nostalgichobo said:

    I learnt new things about my culture. I did not know much apart from the Bhulle Shah poem.
    I was reading up on Holi and this made so much sense. 🙂

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