Holi delight!

Editorial

With Holi celebrations set to take place in various parts of the country today, it is time to make new beginnings. The festival of colors not only heralds the onset of spring, but is also an occasion for self-reflection, renewing bonds and celebrating life. Indeed, the spirit of brotherhood and amity is central to Holi. And given that we are living in highly contentious times, a festival that brings people together is certainly welcome.
However, amidst the fun and frolic of celebrations there has also been an unfortunate trend of anti-social elements using Holi as an excuse for harassment and bad behaviour. Women, particularly, have been at the receiving end. Each year cases of women beings molested in the garb of playing Holi surface from across the country. Contributing to the problem is the attitude that anything goes in playing with colours. This only encourages hooliganism, turning a festival of bonhomie into a nightmarish ordeal. It is paramount that law enforcement authorities ensure women’s safety during the festival.
Similarly, there could be elements looking to stir up communal tensions during Holi. Holi is an ancient festival that celebrates spring and the harvest, with multiple Hindu legends to explain its origins. The one that connects to its color wars concerns the lord Krishna, who feels embarrassed by his blue skin compared with the fair skin of his love, Radha. So his mother suggests he smudge Radha’s skin with color to make him feel better.
Originally, Holi’s hues came from plant sources: Green was made from ground neem leaves (Azadirachta indica), and yellow and red came from turmeric (Curcuma longa), Rajamathi explains. A popular spice, turmeric is bright yellow at neutral pH thanks to the molecule curcumin. When treated with a base, such as calcium hydroxide (also known as lime), curcumin turns red. Other plant-based colors, used either as pastes, as powders, or in water, included henna leaves as another shade of green; marigolds or chrysanthemums as yellow; flame of the forest (Butea monosperma), pomegranate, or red sandalwood as red; indigo as blue; and charcoal as black.
In modern times, with more sophisticated synthetic chemistry, the colors became brighter—and in some cases more toxic. Some of the more benign, modern Holi colors, called gulal in Hindi when made in powder form, are a mixture of more than 95% cornstarch blended with food-, drug-, and cosmetic-grade dyes. These pigments, known as FD&C colors in the U.S., are the same ones that bring a rainbow of colors to candy.
A festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil, Holi is a celebration of the arrival of spring and harvests to come. It’s the Holi festival of colors, emotions, and happiness. And what better way to express yourself than with the vibrant colors of the rainbow?
The central ritual of Holi is the throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives the holiday its common name “Festival of Colors.” Come Holi, and the country is alive with mesmerizing hues of blues, yellows, magentas, greens, violets, and more. Clouds of colors dancing in the wind carry the message of love and happiness across walls, neighbors, and hearts.
Brightly colored powders are the mainstay of the Holi festival, during which men, women, and children carry powders and liquid colors to throw and smear on the clothes and faces of neighbors and relatives. While dry powder colors are called “gulal,” colors mixed with water are called “rang.” Tables with bags of colors line the entrance as neighbors and family await the others to enter the grounds. It’s a day to celebrate and let go — loud music, local brews, and fun-filled chatter are all essential elements of the celebrations.

 

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