Aaj Biraj Mein Holi Hai Re Rasiya!
“O Mother! Why am I so dark and why is Radha so fair?”
Yashoda, busy churning buttermilk turned towards her son and smiled.
Krishna, came behind her and wrapping his hands around his mother’s neck, whined, “Radha glows like a thousand suns. This isn't fair! Why can’t I become like her?”
Yashoda looked at the petulant child, whose radiance could defeat hundreds of thousands of cupids, whose beauty earned him the name Madana Mohan, the one whose lotus eyes could enchant the whole world in a mere fraction of a second. Yet, the one who could capture the hearts of every pair of eyes fortunate enough to be laid on him, was enraptured by the beauty of Radharani
Yashoda giggled and looked at her son's sulking face and chided him, saying, “Why don’t you go and colour Radha’s face in whichever colour you want?”
kunkumakta-kancanabja-garva-hari-gaurabha pitanancitabja-gandha-kirti-nindi-saurabha ballavesa-sunu-sarva-vancitartha-sadhika mahyam atma-pada-padma-dasya-dastu radhika
- Radharani’s splendorous golden complexion anointed with a tinge of red kunkum powder steals the pride of a golden lotus flower Her sweet fragrance mocks the fame of the aroma of a lotus flower sprinkled with saffron powder. She is fully qualified to fulfill all the desires of the son of the king of cowherd men. May Sri Radhika bestow upon me the service of Her own lotus feet.
As if Krishna was waiting just to hear these words from His mother, the mischievous prankster jumped up instantly and raced out like a gazelle, coming to a halt right in front of Radharani, his hands filled with colour. He took a step forward and tenderly anointed His beloved Radha’s glowing face with colour, smearing her flushed cheeks with bold vibrant hues, making the two soul bound lovers indistinguishable. Who could stop Him?! He threw colours all around and teased the gopis with jets of coloured water from His pichkari, celebrating His immortal love. Till date, Holi is celebrated with colours and pichkaris. This legend is brought alive every year in Vrindavan, Mathura, Nandagaon, Varshana and the entire country.
Somehow, the lovable prank of Krishna, where he applied colour on Radha and other gopis using water jets called pichkaris gained acceptance and so much popularity, that it evolved as a tradition and soon enough, was celebrated as a full-fledged festival. Till date, the use of colours and pichkaris is rampant in Holi. The stories of Radha and Krishna are enacted, huge processions are carried out in honour of the eternal couple, and the country gets drenched in colour to celebrate immortal love. Thus, the whiff of love in the air makes this festival of Holi all the more joyful.
The celebration of Holi in Brij Bhumi is ethereal, a spectacle of divine joy. Here, Holi starts from the day of Basant Panchami and continues for forty days. Every town has its own unique events to enjoy this festival. On the day of Basant Panchami, colour or gulal is tied on the waist of the deities, ‘Phent mein gulal’ and every morning and evening, coloured abir or gulal is tossed in the temples till Fagun Purnima. Devotees and singers from the villages assemble together and sing songs and verses on Holi which is called ‘Samaj’.
On Saptami, nine days before Purnima, Laddu Holi is celebrated with magnanimous fervour in the Shriji Temple at Barsana, a beautiful shrine dedicated to Radharani. The devotees gather in large numbers at Shriji Temple and laddus (sweet balls) are thrown at them amidst colors, songs and dances. They have great fun and accept the sweets as a blessing with much devotion. They also shower flowers on the idols of Shri Krishna and Radharani reminiscing the leelas where Shri Krishna played Holi with Radharani and showered her with flowers.
On Ashtami, Barsana, the abode of Radharani, celebrates Lathmaar Holi in Rangili gali. Shri Krishna used to come to Barsana with his friends to play Holi with Radharani but her friends used to chase them away with bamboo sticks (lath). Even now, the men from Krishna’s village, Nandgaon visit Barsana and the ladies shove them off with bamboo sticks. People from all over gather in Barsana to enjoy this game of Barsana Lathmar Holi. With this leela, Shri Krishna planted the seed of women empowerment and during Holi women get to demonstrate their power freely with a dash of fun. Gulal, colours are unfurled in such a way that even the sky appears red.
On the next day, Navami, it is the turn of Nandgaon ladies to take their sweet revenge. The boys from Barsana come to Nandgaon to immerse the women in a splash of colours but the Nandgaon women use their bamboo sticks to shun off the men and the duel takes the form of a grand celebration, Nandgaon Lathmar Holi. The atmosphere gets charged up with showers of colors, sweets and other delicious items in the Holi of Nandgaon.
Rangbhari Ekadashi signals the advent of the great day and naturally it is celebrated with much fervour and excitement in the temples of Vrindavan. Banke Bihari Temple truly becomes a rare and unparalleled sight to behold. The natives and devotees assemble there and play with colours, portraying a beautiful demonstration of the feeling of love, brotherhood and happiness. In the afternoon of the same day, a processions from the temples begin. Radharani and Krishna, mounted on elephants carry out circumambulation, parikrama. Singers and drummers, Brij ke Rasia, lead the procession singing verses and songs to the accompaniment of Dhol, kartal, duff and other musical instruments. The parikrama is followed by throwing of coloured water from Pichkari. The colour used is natural, procured from Palash flower.
Krishna Ke Haath Kanak Pichakari,
Radha Ke Haath Kamori Re Rasiya.
Udat Gulal Laal Bhaye Badal,
Marat Bhar Bhar Jhori Re Rasiya.
Abeer Gulal Ke Badal Chaye,
Dhoom Machai Re Sab Mil Sakhiya.
Aaj Biraj Mein Holi Hai Re Rasiya
Hori Re Hori Re Barjori Re Rasiya!!
It's Hori in Brij Oh my loved one. Brij is drenched in the colours of Hori. Kanha, holding a golden pichkari faces Radha, who is armed with a vessel filled with colours. The play of colours has turned the clouds dense red. Everyone has joined in.
It’s raining colours and drenching everyone with the colours of love and joy, inside and out. This celebration is repeated every morning and evening till the day of Holi. The brightness and the colours of love remain engraved in memory for a long long time.
Picture Courtesy: Kunjalata Mishra