Thursday, March 08, 2012
Today we will celebrate Holi here in New Orleans with friends, colored powders, good food and of course - Bollywood tunes. I hope to celebrate it one day in India - my relatives tell me it is much like what we see in the movies (without songs & music starting on cue of course:) Holi is a very popular holiday in Bollywood films and it's easy to see why as it is visually almost tailor made for the big screen.
The origins of Holi are in religion as are most Indian festivals. Hiranyakashipu (a demon king) was granted near immortality due to his penance to Vishnu. The terms of this were that he not be killed "during day or night, inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky, neither by a man nor an animal, neither by astra nor by shastra". Consequently, he grew arrogant (as you would expect a demon king to become who was immortal) and demanded that people stop worshiping gods and start praying to him.
Despite this his own son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to bow down to the king. After many attempts at killing him, the king ordered young Prahlad to sit on a funeral pyre on the lap of his aunt, Holika. She would be safe from the fire by virtue of her holy shawl. Prahlad readily accepted his father's orders and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika (who was burnt to death) to Prahlad who was saved unhurt. Thus bonfires are lit to symbolize the burning of Holika and the beginning of Holi. And the tradition of the colors (besides just being fun and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil)?
There are various explanations but my favorite one comes from Krishna's celebration of Holi. According to legend, Krishna complained to his mother about how much darker he was than the much fairer Radha. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face as a way to appease him while still keeping Radha fair. Holi officially ushers in spring, the celebrated season of love in Bollywood & Hollywood as well.
Today's selection is arguably one of the most famous Holi songs in Bollywood history. The song is Rang Barse from 'Silsila' sung by Amitabh Bachchan himself. In 'Silsila' Jaya is shown initially enjoying herself but when she realizes that AB & Rekha are more than just friends - her pained look stays with you as well and changes the whole tone of the movie from that moment on. One of the most underrated actresses of our time, graceful yet powerful in every movie she has ever been in.
In the end though, maybe Holi is kind of a metaphor for life - for without color and song, life just isn't complete.