Nothing Unholy about Holi

One of my fondest memories of childhood is celebrating Holi in Allahabad during my Father’s 3 year work-contract there. As some of you may know, Holi celebrations in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India are not for the faint-hearted. There’s not just colors involved, I’ve seen things like eggs, muddy water and sticks as well (a tradition where women beat men with sticks, not seriously of course) being hurled around. But the one thing that stood out was that it was largely a community affair. The entire mohalla (town/village community) was involved in everything, right from preparations to celebrations.Β In fact, the festival of Holi is something one celebrates in and with the community itself. I’m not going to delve into how Holi came about. You may read about it here. This post is about how festivalsΒ should be a community affair.

So I’ve spent a good many of my growing up years celebrating Holi with my friends, and people I didn’t even know from the ‘mohalla’… all in good faith. We would throw colors and colored water at each other for hours at end, snacking whenever we could remember to eat, on sweets and drinks, then spending the rest of the afternoon vigorously scrubbing away the color, and going to school next day to find that there were still some funny looking, pink or purple, even black faces who weren’t able to get quite clean. It was a matter of pride. The more color you had, the better Holi you played. It was raucous, wild and I loved it πŸ™‚

Then there was the karanji/gujiya andΒ bhaang itself. While karanji is an Indian sweet, Bhaang is a drink made of crushed cannabisΒ leaves added toΒ chilled milk, clarified butter and some spices. It has an amazing kick to it, but of course we kids always had a watered down version of it. Now, I don’t know if bhaang is offered on the streets anymore by the mohallawalas, but back in the day it was a ‘thing’. Β A certainty, as much as the colors of Holi were.

As I grew up though, I noticed that the celebrations were getting tamer, till they simply vanished. Our growing civic sense, modernization and the increasing pressure of our work-lives ensured that the celebration of this communal festival has now reduced to Holi becoming synonymous with a holiday meant to relax before the idiot box with friends/family in tow. Sure you’ll do a pooja at home, buy some sweets from the local sweetshop, smear some color on your face and send your friends some downloaded picture of a Holi message via Whatsapp or Facebook. But you won’t go out there and wish them personally. You will no longer go out in the neighborhood, knock on people’s door and greet them with the customary ‘Holi Hai!’. You’ll rationalize this by saying that playing with colors is bad for the environment, and that neighbors have their personal lives and you don’t want to look like a hooligan. You don’t want to look uncivilized before the community. The same goes for other festivals too – Diwali, Janmashtami, Shiv Ratri and the other communal festivals in the Hindu calendar.

We’ve forgotten along the way that festivals aren’t about littering, or binging or partying. There’s nothing unholy about Holi. It’s a festival that was always meant to be about spreading communal cheer and strengthening human bonds. It’s about spending a day mingling with the community. It engenders communal trust and harmony. It’s a chance to know thyΒ neighbor. Sure, ditch the colors if you want, or get the more environment friendly ones made from flowers and seeds. Ditch the sweets too if you’re trying to keep a check on your waistline. Don’t spill a single drop of water. Conserve it because its a precious resource. But please don’t ditch the tradition and sentiment. Not all traditions are foolish and archaic. Some had been cultivated for a reason.

And Holi just came with one – Celebrate Love and Life.

Have a safe, happy and vibrant Holi Everyone!

With Love,


Copyright Β©2017 by Pradita Kapahi.

All rights reserved.


Image credits:Β

81 thoughts on “Nothing Unholy about Holi

  1. So happy to read this post. Forget the tough times, celebrate life. holi is so very inviting and lively. Here we don’t celebrate holi as much as you do but I wish I could celebrate it once.
    I remember my college days where my juniors(group of 5 girls) celebrated holi in hostel.when everybody was running, I wanted to join in their celebration. They were not my friends that time, so all I could do was just get inside my room like others. And now they are my friends😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post….as you rightly pointed out….its about tradition….and there will be a whole big lot….opposing this…the environment, the resources etc. all are brought forward…so that the spirit of the festival is killed…but you know….Holika turned into ashes….not Prahalad….it is the duty of every community …to protect their culture….what we are …is because of our culture today …and what we will turn into…will also depend on…how we preserve our culture…Happy Holi….!!!


    • Absolutely right. By all means protect the environment. But what’s that got to do with communal gatherings? I don’t understand why people suddenly have this thing for being hooked up in their homes in the name of being decent. Festivals are not just about religion. They are principally about communal harmony and togetherness. Hope you had a better Holi. Happy Holi πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess as a society that’s always evolving traditions are being replaced by commercial influences. So instead of mithai its chocolate now. The western influence is a major threat than the environment or such issues.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Holi to you and your family! I’ve never witnessed Holi day as I don’t celebrate it personally but I’ve seen it on screen and it does look like a lot of fun. Here in England, people hardly have any real days off for celebrating different traditions either which is a real shame with the only exceptions being Christmas but i hope you have a lovely day full of life and love. (Virtually throwing some colours on you and runs) 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aah thanks a lot for your wishes and the colors. I hope you get to experience Holi someday. It’s a fun festival. I love celebrating Christmas too since its another excuse for being together for family,which I believe is the reason why Festivals were created in the first place. Have a great day 😊😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely post. This is a very pertinent question and we must, of course, try to honour the traditions. One point that I would like to add here is that most of the time, due to rampant migration to the cities, people who live even next door don’t know each other. Consequently, they make even less of an effort to celebrate with their neighbours (when in fact they should do the opposite).
    The initial paragraphs brought back childhood memories for me (minus the bhaang 😝)
    Thanks for the wonderful post, again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a lot. I hope you had a good Holi unlike me. I tried gathering people, no one came. I mean how sad is it that some turned me down only coz for them, it wasn’t Holi today or because they don’t celebrate holi. Arey yaar, it isn’t about religion of region, it’s about community! And this is where your point of migratory population comes in. My husbands family have shifted to this new place a year back and we still don’t interact with most of our neighbors because they’re either too busy with working or not in the country at all. It is alarming,the kind of mistrust we harbour for our neighbours, and it isn’t healthy. If a neighbourt is too friendly, he’s Nosy, if not, he’s uppity. What’s wrong with people, I wonder πŸ˜‘

      Liked by 1 person

      • He he. Well, tough luck. I had a good one, but not in the way you imagined. I got to meet my brother and be with him for a few days. And no, I didn’t play with colours either this year, although that is just an aberration.
        Now that this year’s Holi is gone, maybe you could hope for a better response from your hoodies on Eid or Ganesh Chaturthi. No harm in hoping, eh? 😁

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I have seen holi being celebrated for more than 2 decades now but I really didn’t know the history and tradition behind it. Today I finally asked one of my friends and got the answer I was looking for.
    I know its a little late now but anyways Happy Holi!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is why I love being part of the blogosphere. I learn about things as a white, privileged, middle aged, American woman than I never would have otherwise. Thanks for this post Pradita!

    Liked by 1 person

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