the non-religious origins of the festival of HOLI

holi is not one of my favourite festivals. i know its got tomatina festival like status amongst tourists, but growing up in india i did not like it. playing as a child 0f 7 and then later as an adolescent of 15, this festival takes on different colours! i did not like the free license it gave boys to touch girls, anywhere. it was like during holi all moral codes were suspended and anything was allowed and if you objected, you were the boring one! added to that my contempt for colour and being left with what i call the ‘holi hangover’ – starched dry hair, multicoloured skin and clothes that i had to junk. and if that was not enough, the colossal waste of water. well, maybe i’m just being a wet blanket! or maybe i am true to my roots, as this is not a festival we celebrate in tamilnadu.

while we all know about holi and krishna. (i wrote about it here: a complete guide to holi) but let me tell you what i came across while researching for that piece… the non-religious angle to holi! 

you all know that holi happens at the change of season: when winter blossoms into spring. there are climatic changes and our bodies need to adapt to those. holi it seems was a great way to get us ready to deal with the change – without the onslaught of colds, fevers and all those minor ailments associated with climatic change in india. what with water and sun constantly on your body all day long – a direct juxtaposition of hot & cold.

this other bit below, amazed me even further! originally, holi was played with all natural colours? what were those natural colours – haldi or turmeric powder, powdered petals of the flame of the forest or dhak or palash, natural pigments from leaves of the neem and also kumkum – which in those days was a mix of haldi and saffron – not anymore given how expensive saffron is. these almost toughened the body for the climatic changes, we all know the benefits of turmeric. imagine being coated in turmeric for a couple of hours. that’s really good for you! 

it made me think that i actually like holi. i am still against the water wastage. but wow, what foresight, what a natural way to help us stay strong! we seem to have forgotten all of this today.

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