Holi: a song of seven colours

The colours have undergone a drastic divide, socially, politically. And people like me keep looking for a colour which does not have the scar of division; which colour do we play Holi with?

Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pragati Saxena

The spring is about to end. From Holi, the infamous summer will officially start. But for now, the spring- its flames of passion are reaching the skies in semal (red cotton tree) and palash (flame of the forest) blossoms. Everything is filled with a longing to meet the beloved- biologically, mentally, spiritually. Ah, the longing, the waiting. It has its own beauty and pain and joy…..

Is Qadar Pyar Se
Aye Jan-E-Jahan Rakha Hai
Dil Ke Rukhsar Pe
Is Waqt
Teri Yaad Ne Haath
Yoon Guman Hota Hai
Garche Hai Abhi Subh-E-
Dhal Bhi Gaya Hijr Ka Din
Aa Bhi Gaee Wasl Ki Raat
Dasht-E-Tanhai Main
Aye Jan-E-Jahan Larza

(Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

(With such tenderness, my love,

Your memory has placed its hand

On the contours of my heart

Even though this is the dawn of our farewell,

It feels like the sun has set on our separation

And the night of our union is at hand)

Holi brings it all back. You can't remain numb and a mute spectator to the joy and yearning that enfolds you in a light fragrance of the spring gradually dissolving into summer. Have you felt it around you- the light fragrance? It swarms around you wherever you are in the country. And the leaves falling and floating in the spring breeze. You can't remain indifferent to the leaves crackling under your feet. Careful now, they may carry you to the deep fold of memories that you had concealed in your consciousness with a great effort, so much so, that you may feel a complete disconnect with the here and now!

And the colours! Even the most hopelessly withered stem of a plant rejuvenates with a new shining green sprout-shining and so delicate and pure- as life itself. The journey of spring culminates on Holi bringing forth the stubborn summers. Hence Holi. Hence the celebration of colours and longing and love.

As a child, I remember the zeal for mischief during the season. It allows you to be mischievous, naughty noisy and even brash. One Holi I recall in particular when as a teenager my friend and I kept throwing colours on various flowers and kept shouting- laugh! Laugh! Why can’t you laugh like us!

We did not realise at that time the colours always laugh through flowers, at times mischievously, at times romantically, and sometimes painfully, sadly. The colours of flowers became a part of business and growing up meant seeing the black and white of life; meanwhile innumerable Holis came and passed by. The festivities became cruder, noisier, bawdier verging onto sadistic joys.

The colours have too been divided- saffron- the colour of detachment mostly has prominently become a colour of valour and victory and power, the green has become community specific, the dark blue of the downtrodden, the red of the leftists, pink for girls and blue for boys and so on. Even the colours have undergone a drastic divide, socially, politically.

And people like me keep looking for a colour which does not have the scar of division; which colour do we play Holi with?

Des bades mein dhoondh phiri hoon

Tora rang mann bhayo nizamuddin

Aiso rang aur naahi dekhun kahin bhi main toh

Mohe apne hi rang mein rang le khwaja ji

Mohe rang basanti rang de khwaja ji

( I have travelled far and wide searching

But your colour has captivated me heart o Khwaja ji

Drench me in your colour o Khawaja ji

I haven’t seen a colour like this

O drench me in your colour basanti Khwaja ji!)

Holi is a play of colours of life and death, faith and doubt and spirituality. It is not just a festival, it is a celebration and a constant exploration of different moods of human mind and coexistence. There is a playful violence, and aggression too which is an essential part of Holi (everybody mentions the lath mar Holi of Barsana and the gaaris(abuses) sung by women there).

But all the emotions and passions are drenched with love above all:

Holi khelungi mein kar bismillah,

Nam nabi ki ratn chadi, boond padi Allah Allah.

Rang rangeeli ohi khilave, jis seekhi ho fanaa fi Allah.

(I will play Holi beginning in the name of the Lord,

saying bismillah.

Cast like a gem in the name of the prophet,

Each drop falls with the beat of Al-lah, Al-lah,

Only he may play with these colourful dyes,

Who has learnt to lose himself in Allah.)

There, the Holi we need to play today needs the colour ‘basanti’ (which by the way can not be translated into either saffron, orange, red or pink- it is just at best the colour of spring) And we have not as yet begun the journey on the path of finding and experiencing that colour.

For now, let’s play Holi with the colour of love which is a fusion of all the colours, the colour of peace.

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