Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Holi - Festival of Color

Holi Celebration
Holi, is a spring festival. It is celebrated in the month of Phalguna, as the lunar month is locally known. It is the month of March that corresponds with this time of celebration. Though originated in the northern part of India, Holi has assumed a national flavor over the ages. Despite being a Hindu festival, it is now regarded as a secular event. For, the entire nation takes the day off, as people, irrespective of race, culture and ethnic background, enjoy the spirit of Holi. Cities and suburbs, towns and villages all come alive to catch the frenzy of March madness with a range of colors.

A Hindu festival, Holi has various legends associated with it. The foremost is the legend of demon King Hiranyakashyap who demanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him but his pious son, Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap wanted his son to be killed. He asked his sister Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap as Holika had a boon which made he immune to fire. Story goes that Prahlad was saved by lord himself for his extreme devotion and evil minded Holika was burnt to ashes, for her boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.

Since that time, people light a bonfire, called Holika on the eve of Holi festival and celebrate the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion to god. Children take special delight in the tradition and this has another legend attached to it. It says that there was once an ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Prithu. She was chased away by children on the day of Holi. Therefore, children are allowed to play pranks at the time of 'Holika Dahan'.

Some also celebrate the death of evil minded Pootana. The ogress tried to Lord Krishna as an infant by feeding it poisonous milk while executing the plan of Kansa, Krishna's devil uncle. However, Krishna sucked her blood and brought her end. Some who view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles believe that Pootana represents winter and her death the cessation and end of winter.

The celebration of Holi:
On the day of the festival, people get out in the street early in the morning with colored powder, colored water with sprayers and water filled balloons. They throw colors at each other and shout greetings like 'Holi hai'. The streets, building and people all get painted in gulal (colored powder). In many places processions are held and people sing and dance all the way. The joyous celebration continues till the mid day and in afternoon or evening people visit friends and relatives to distribute sweets and gather for feasts.

The celebration also signifies the onset of spring as the nature starts changing its colors and flowers bloom. It announces the beginning of the agricultural season in this part of the world.

Popular Dishes of Holi:
Like most of the Indian festivals, food plays a very curial role in Holi. Sweet meats as well as snacks are prepared with great care keeping the festive mood of the celebration in mind.
Some of the most popular Holi dishes are gujias, laddoos, mathri, kheer, pedas, dahi vada or dahi bhalla, chaat, and pakoras. Holi would remain incomplete without the intoxicating 'bhang ke sarbaat'. You can now find many interesting Holi recipes online.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. The festival of Makar Sankrant traditionally coincides with the beginning of the Sun's northward journey (the Uttarayan) when it enters the sign of Makar (the Capricorn). It falls on the 14th of January every year according to the Solar Calendar. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun.

Celebrations in Different Parts of the Country:

In Maharashtra - when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say "til gud ghya, god god bola" (henceforth, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us).

In Gujarat - the pandits consider Sankranti as an auspicious day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit to students who have successfully completed their studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils are purchased and used for the first time. Brightly coloured kites dot the skies on this day.

In Karnataka -men, women and children attired in colourful tunics visit friends and relatives and exchange pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings. As part of the festival, cows and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland, and are taken in a procession in the village to the accompaniment of pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire.

In Uttar Pradesh - Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Khichiri. Every twelve years at this time the Kumbh Mela is held here at Prayag in Allahabad at Uttar Pradesh. Bathing on the day of Makar Sankranti in the banks of the holy rivers is considered very auspicious. Millions of people take a dip in the holy waters on this day.