Monday, March 21, 2011

Holi weekend

This weekend I went to the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, outside Gurgaon. It was such a beautiful place I wish I had discovered it before winter died! I acquired 561 photos, a tan and two new friends. Not bad, eh?

What struck me a lot is that we saw so many trees shedding their leaves - it was like the fall colours, just no red or orange, only yellow. At one point we could see a whole copse, and it was patches of yellow and green, much like upstate New York. This morning, on the way to work, I saw that again - the trees carpeting the ground with yellow leaves. Seeing as how yesterday was Holi (India's worst festival, especially in the north), which signals the beginning of summer (late signal this year my friends!), I was wondering if, since our deciduous trees need to shed leaves in the summer to survive, aestivate if you will, if this was out Fall. (Sorry, long sentence.)

Which made me wonder if this is why Holi is the festival of colour: cos with the advent of summer the trees change colour. All the legends explain various things, often unrelated to what one actually DOES on Holi, but none seem to talk about the colour thing. So I went to our dear ol friend wikipedia (cos one useless person is holing my Devdutt PAtnaik hostage), and found a story of a Bengali festival of celebrating Krishna and love and covering idols and devotees with Abir, or red coloured powder.

This whole where does Holi come from thing is very interesting. Everyone has a different story. The Hindustan Times Brunch weekend magazine had three; one of which was about an ogress who, like many baddies in India mythology, prayed to the god who gave her invincibility as a boon. She then proceeded to terrorize the people of the local village.* However, she was immune to verbal abuse apparently, so one day the village boys got drunk and started screaming abuse at her and ran her out of town with drums. Apparently this is why boys are supposed to get drunk and rowdy on Holi. The most believable theory if you ask me.

Then there's the one about Kamadeva, who is supposed to awaken Shiva from penance to impregnate Parvati so she can give birth to Kartikeya who can kill some asura. (Yes, really. Let's not go there shall we?). Course Shiva is all pissed off because he'd rather meditate in ashes than you know winkawonka his gorgeous wife, so he open his third eye (what about that symbolism? another post eh), and burns Kamadeva to death. Then Parvati is all pleeeease resuscitate him and so he does, as a spirit, which makes love all permeable and so he then "consummates" with Parvati and the world is saved. Isn't it amazing how the survival of the universe depends on one man's orgasm? God I'm going to get trolls for this post... Anyway, I simply cannot see how this is related in any way to Holi as it is celebrated - the bonfires, the colours, the getting stoned.

The third one is Holika, sister of Hiranyakashap, who, of course, prayed to the gods and was granted the boon of no one being able to kill him, and so he turns into psychotic tyrant and demands to be worshipped as god. His son, however, is all no, I'm sticking with Vishnu. Several attempts to kill him fail, so finally he's stuck in a bonfire. Enter Holika. Now the way I've heard it told is that she was overwhelmed by Prahalada, the son, and wants to save him, so she tells her brother that she will go into the fire and hold him down, because she, also having prayed to the gods, ahem, had the boon of not burning in fire. Then, once inside the fire, she prays to Visnhu and transfers the boon to Prahalda, and then died. Thus the fire. Yesterday I found out that there are many versions, most of which make her evil chickie! She has a shawl that keeps her safe from burning but Vishnu becomes a wind and blows it onto Prahalada, saving him. She didn't know the fine print said the power could only protect her if she was alone. She didn't read the fine print that said it would protect her only if she didn't harm someone, etc.

Right, I don't think I have a point anymore, except maybe I don't like Holi and none of the legends explain why it is so annoying? Though why a legend should make me okay with it I don't know!

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