Even before you read this piece, I would like to add a disclaimer, for this piece isn’t intended to hurt any religious, cultural or yet-to-be-termed sentiment type. It’s only a point of view and if it doesn’t sync with yours, read these lines a few times over – “bura mat mano, Holi Hai!” 🙂
With any festival of significance, there are two sides to it. One religious, the other cultural. Whilst most of us conveniently and with absolute ease confuse both, it takes much depth and understanding to call out the differences between the two.
We in India aren’t any different when it comes to convenience and ease of confusing religion and culture – in fact, we might have quietly mastered this art over centuries. Take a case in point – most confuse Punjabi as a religion and only a handful view it rightly as a categorisation of culture and origin. This is exactly how we treat our festivals. With the Hindu festival of Holi barely hours away, I thought it’s appropriate to use this occasion (auspicious or not you decide) to drive a larger point. Please read on.
Originally called as Holika, the festival of Holi has been stated to have existed several centuries before Christ. While the festival has deep rooted religious existence and mentions in Jaimini’s Purva Mimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutras and other ancient Indian texts, inscriptions and paintings, it’s cultural meaning and essence to India and its population has been wide-ranging and transient in nature.
Firstly, I choose to use the term wide-ranging given the diverse reasons why different states and population types celebrate the festival. Reasons of celebration for the people of Orissa are different to those of Bengal.
Separately, from what started as a ritual performed by married Hindu women for the well-being of their family was translated with much personal ease by Lord Krishna. Albeit a deity, Krishna was an individual who chose to translate the festival of Holi to the play of colours with his beloved Radha and other gopis (in the modern day, it’s called flirting). Like all other things that are transient in nature, the festival has been well accepted in its current form (thanks to Lord Krishna) and continues to be celebrated by Indians across the globe.
Whether or not these individuals understand, let alone appreciate the religious and historic significance of the festival is a matter of discussion. But the moot point here, or rather the one that should be, is the current form in which this festival is widely celebrated. The form that I’m referring to involves chemical colours, rubber-based water balloons and many other substances that can be at best described as trash (I know of those who use cow dung and rotten eggs). We all know of horrid incidents and individuals who have suffered skin, hair and eye ailments for weeks post the festival. Some are more horrific and end up with long-term ailments.
But more importantly, the form of Holi that I’m referring to is the one where we happily choose to forget the depleting nature of usable water. Instead, we use it extensively to splash buckets on each other and then on ourselves to cleanse the remains of the play with colours.
To put this in perspective please read the following data points. Per The Groundwater Association, only 0.3% water on earth is usable by humans – of this usable water, the currently attainable forms exist in the form of rivers that constitute only 0.0001 % of water. Now, consider this. Per rough and conservative estimations of my own, per person consumption of water on the day of Holi goes at least 5-7x compared to average consumption of water per day.
While the data from above can be debated, what’s not (debatable) is the significance of the issue of water conservation on the occasion of Holi. In case you are still not convinced about the cause, ask Delhiites their plight when the water supply was cut-off during the recent crisis of Jat agitation.
I must share that I’m not a minister, nor an activist, but a realist and a fellow Indian urging you to take the cause of conserving scarcely available, usable water seriously. I took to this cause a decade ago but that hasn’t deterred me from celebrating the festival in its true spirit. Here’s how I have enjoyed this festival over the years without using a drop of water:
- Focus on spreading happiness and wishing well for the near and dear ones – including our four-legged furry friends!
- Use organic colours in limited quantities – a tilak on the forehead does equally well to mark the occasion…yes, you do risk being called boring but then, that’s a small cost to pay 😉
- Keep the occasion sweet and enjoy some Gujiyas with the family – for those not acquainted, this is an Indian sweet delicacy that makes this festival special.
- Last but not the least, take some time out to read the historical significance of the occasion – if nothing else, it’ll definitely make you look smarter than your peers 😉
For those who agree with me, thank you for keeping it sane! And for those who don’t and are moved to send harsh words my way or worse still an army of goons to be beat me black and blue for daring to suggest a dry Holi, please see this video below.
Here’s wishing you all a very Happy Holi.