The night of the demones [ From Rediff ]
Holi celebrates the demise of demoness Holika.
HolikaBlessed with a boon of invincibility at the hands of god as well as mortal, King Hiranyakashyap thought he was mightier than god and ordered his people to worship him. All his subjects obeyed except his son Prahlad, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu.
Unable to persuade his son otherwise, Hiranyakashyap then tried to have Prahlad killed. All his attempts failed, so he turned to his sister Holika who had a special gift: fire could not harm her.
Holika sat on a bonfire with Prahlad in her lap, hoping to burn him to death. But Prahlad chanted Vishnu's name and the fire didn't harm him, although Holika perished in it.To this day, Holi commemorates Holika's death in the fire, which symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
Never knew at all about these legends . I am very poor at these mythological stories that abound in India. For us Holi is just lighting the fire like a bonfire and a chance to interact with the neighbors in the apartment on that day and then playing color the next day.I look forward to the ' next day ' as that is when we get colored and wet and interact with the people under the influence of alcohol or cool drink of Thandai or Bhang that gives a ' high '.
The preparations start a week earlier.Contributions are collected from the members for arranging the bonfire on the day of Holi , the religious ceremony 'puja' , snacks in the afternoon the next day and dinner . There are a few very enthusiastic members in our Society,who are good at organizing , and because of whom we others can be relaxed and concentrate on our work schedule.
In the afternoon we see some laborers clearing the compound and then digging a small pit . Then they arrange a few logs vertically about 6 to 7 feet high ,tied by wire .They then stuff it with dry grass . The area around the pit is decorated with colors and all set to be lit at night.By the time I return from my clinic at night, people are gathered around ,chatting in small groups. A traditional religious ceremony ' Puja ' is held after which the fire is lit . I had forgotten to take my camera , but on seeing this special log separated from the rest and emitting smoke from one end like a cigar, I rushed up to get the camera and click.People offer coconuts by throwing them in the fire,They are then removed and the roasted kernel distributed as 'prasad '. I really look forward to eat the roasted coconut kernel with the distinct smoky flavour, coconut has always been my weak point. Ladies then go round the fire pouring water around in small containers that they bring. This is the time for all to interact and plan for the next day. There is a ' special ' group who plan for the booze session the next day as that is their main attraction.
Next day by 9 am we can hear screams of youngest members of the society running around with colored water filled balloons and water jets.They are the ones who really enjoy. Next the adults enter the arena , applying color and greeting each other. The ladies join later and by this time the youngsters are tired of playing in their groups so they target the adults . In a few moments all are wet, colored and not recognizable . Then there is a game of cricket arranged on the spot with teams formed amongst the members .We can now see some members quietly quiting the game and going for their fill of booze.
A common lunch is next on the agenda . usually light snacks and sweets . People then retire to their homes for a clean up and rest . By evening all are sober, cleaned of color, well dressed and presentable for the dinner get together.Here is Supriya with her friends , probably telling about her exam papers , which are uppermost on her mind. A simple menu is on the card and gossip of the day, recent national and local news , usual shop talk or bitching about about goes on. The ladies then go for a stroll on the Kachrali Lake nearby . We all then retire for the night and the routine next day ..