HOLI: Time To Bring Different Colours Into Age-Old Traditions

By Zile Singh


“ Cruelty is the strength of the wicked ”



A week before, I was thinking to write this column on Holi in a normal way.   In the meanwhile, I read on FaceBook a blog by Mr. Promod Puri, a retired journalist, founder and a long term editor of this esteemed weekly, in your hands, ‘The Link Newspaper’.  Mr. Puri has floated an idea to   re-invent and re-interpret the meanings of the age-old rituals, dogmas, customs and superstitions. He has gone even further to suggest   that the ‘sacred writings’ also need to be rewritten. Mr. Puri has authored a book entitled  “Hinduism without Rituals.”  To me, his invitation is not only an idea, but it is a ‘Clarion Call’ to the  right thinking logical  minds to engage  into this noble  endeavour and try their best to understand the real meanings of age-old customs in the present day context.     The festivals, we celebrate all  year –around, are essential part and parcel of these rituals and customs.


Admittedly, India is a land of fairs and festivals. .  It is also a fact that a long time back when such rituals, customs, festivals   etc. were enforced by vested interests, the masses were illiterate and ignorant.  Maybe, only 5% population had access to learning.   Though I am not in favour of rituals, customs and superstitions, yet I am of the opinion that these things need to be understood in their   right perspective and essence. Leaving aside their entertainment aspect, there should not be any blind faith or fear factor attached to them. Science has come a long way to eradicate the blind faith and remove the fear of the unknown.


Whether it is life or death, India had been celebrating both.  The priestly class knew that the masses were illiterate and forgetful. They needed to be reminded time and again to celebrate festivals.     If one analyses the lessons conveyed by this myriad of customs and   festivals, one would find that human beings were reminded time and again to refrain from the vices like lust, anger, ego, attachment etc. in the conduct of one’s daily life.  With tremendous advancement of Science,  Technology and Psychology the orthodoxy is not ready to yield to logic.  It has been a problem as to how to combat this rigid, downright suffocating traditionalism.  Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand and Swami Vivekananda have failed to make people to understand the futility of blind faith and rituals.




The festival of Holi has various legends associated with it.  The foremost is King Hiranyakashyap, who demanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him.  But his son, Prahlad refused to obey.   The king subjected Prahlad to severe punishments but to no avail. Finally, he ordered his sister Holika, who had a boon not to be burnt by fire, to take Prahlad in her lap and sit in a blazing fire.   Holika was reduced to ashes.   Prahlad  was saved.

Another legend states that there was once  a bitch named Dhundhi. She used to harass children in the kingdom of Prithu.  On the day of Holi,  she was chased away to the pyre of fire by the children and she died.

Some celebrate the death of evil- minded Pootna.  She tried to feed the child Krishna her poisonous milk to cause his death.  Krishna sucked her blood and she died.  There may be some other  mythological legends  as well.



If we take the above legends in their reinvented right perspective, we reach a conclusion that the Children, Youth and the Women have been the main protagonists of these customs, festival etc.  These vulnerable groups have been the subjects of victimization since time immemorial.    The youth like Prahlad, Krishna, Rama, Luv,  Kush,  Karna, Bhishma, Asthavakra, Ganesha etc and  Women like Holika, Devki, Kunti, Gandhari, Kaushalya, Kekai, Sita, Draupadi  and many more had to suffer due to  the hegemony of the patriarchal and priestly  system. Even after immigrating to a multi-cultural country like Canada, in  the name of religion and customs, the children and the youth of the ethnic communities are not allowed to think and act logically and independently.  The mature and logical actions on the part of some youth have caused them victimization and in some cases even death by their parents.


From the environmental point of view, celebrations of  festivals like, Lohri,  Holi, Diwali, Dushera etc. are questionable.  Despite legal provisions, people take pleasure to add to the life- threatening pollution.  Our age-old celebrations of festivals have not made even a slight change in the egoistic, selfish and lustful behaviour of the people.  Though  the  basic message of our festivals is, “Truth Triumphs and Lie Lacks Life”, there is enough evidence that the people and institutions which propagate high morality are involved in various types of misconduct bringing a bad name to the community.


Today, we have crossed the thresholds of illiteracy but are still wrapped tightly in the clutches of ignorance, blind faith and illogical stories supporting most of these festivals.  At a sad note: “When victims support the dogmas,  dogmas   continue to exist.”


Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer, a Vipassana Meditator and has a Post-Graduate Diploma in Human Rights.  He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca


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