Down the Holi lane

Spirits rise high during festival time, the fervour of tradition inherited by one and all brings out the human who love and lives in a bond of family and friendly ties. Our ways may be different, but every celebration marks the togetherness of people no matter what the time, place or religion. Holi is one such time which brings back the spirits in us after the winter lull. But alas, our festive frenzy has become more symbolic than ever.

In my hill state of Uttarakhand, Holi is not just about a day, Holi-Milan (Meeting friends and family during Holi) is a more than month long affair where which starts from Basant Panchami and lasts till the day of Holi or Dulhendi.

I have witnessed this tradition especially two of its forms Baithaki Holi (Sitting Holi) and Mahila Holi (Ladies Holi) while growing up in a Kumaoni Family. The tradition is musically dominated and of course there is the quintessential Holi Gujiya (sweet) for the kids to gorge.

For Mahila Holi, every day one household invites ladies of the neighborhood, and together they sing holi songs, dance and even do swaang (small comical acts about relatives and friends). But what I used to really wait for was the Baithaki Holi which were a musical delight. Songs based on ragas were sung and there were different songs for baithaki holi during day and the ones held after sunset. Besides the technicalities of the music, the thing to really remember was the talent which we witnessed in our surroundings. Baithaki Holi was more male dominated as it was held in the evening after my father and other neighbors returned from office and sat together to sing the traditional songs and read poetry. It was amazing to see such talented people who lived in a camouflage of day to day responsibilities bring out their talented alter ego.

Even as a child I wondered, when I heard my father’s friends sing – why did many not become singers or poets and went into day to day mundane jobs? As I grew up I realized talent is not necessary equated with keeping a career. 

May be these festivals are a way of bringing out our hidden talents, be it singing during holi, dancing during spring, creating rangolis during Diwali, even cooking variety of dishes during Id, Christmas, Onam …

Not everyone can create magic, a select few can and these wonderful talents remain hidden behind computer screens and school books until it is time for the celebrations to begin!


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