by Rajat Mahesh, Chairperson, Aylesbury Hindu Temple Trust
As we enter Spring, it’s the time of the year when vibrant hues fill all across the skies. Yes, we are talking about the Hindu festival of colours, Holi, which will be celebrated on 29th March this year. Celebrated for centuries, the festival symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and commemorates new beginnings.
Historically, Holi celebrates the beginning of spring, when agricultural produce is abundant, and the land is fertile. People colour each other to celebrate the coming of spring and to bid farewell to the cold winter.
Each Holi colour signifies a special emotion that transcends the brightly coloured faces of people to a sentiment of community, equality and oneness.
Museum visitors throw coloured powder in the museum garden, 2019.
Holi gets its name from Holika, demon king Hiranyakashyap’s sister. Hiranyakashyap had a blessing from Lord Vishnu that he would not be killed by man or animal, at day or night, inside or outside, above or on the ground. He had special powers that made him nearly invincible and he wanted everyone in his kingdom to worship him only. Hiranyakashyap had a son called Prahlad. Prahlad disobeyed his father and continued to worship Lord Vishnu instead of him, this made his father angry. He asked Prahlad to jump from a mountain, but he remained unhurt. Even when Hiranyakashyap made Prahlad jump in a well, he was unharmed. Hiranyakashyap tried to poison Prahlad. The poison turned to nectar in Prahlad’s mouth. Then, Hiranyakashya ordered that wild elephants should trample Prahlad, but he was not hurt. Next, Prahlad was put in a room with poisonous, angry snakes, but still nothing happened to him. The king asked his sister Holika to help kill Prahlad. Holika had a special shawl that would protect her from fire. So, she planned to trick Prahlad by taking him into a fire, but because she was using her powers for evil, the plan failed and the shawl flew from Holika and covered Prahlad. So Holika burned, Prahlad was safe. Lord Vishnu appeared as half-man, half-lion and killed Hiranyakashyap at dusk, on his porch steps. A Holika bonfire is lit every year in street corners to remind us of the victory of good over evil and create positive energy. Holi is celebrated on the day after the bonfire.
Celebrated throughout the country, the festival of Holi is a particularly entertaining and fun experience. As the morning of Holi dawns, people gather in the streets. Rainbow dust tumbles through the air as friends and family are adorned with coloured powder- even passers-by are not spared. Faces, hair, hands and clothes rendered in a kaleidoscope of colours. Accompanying the colour fest, music blasts through the neighbourhoods and people cannot help but dance. Now after all that running and dancing, if you’re feeling a little thirsty, a cold, milk-based drink called “Thandai” might be for you. The cooling drink is prepared with rose petals, ground almonds and spices and adds to the uninhibited spirit of celebration. The atmosphere during Holi is truly fantastic and if you are ever considering experiencing the festival in its full entirety, it would be the perfect time to coincide a trip to India.
In 2019, the Aylesbury Hindu Temple Trust celebrated Holi together at the Bucks County Museum garden with people of all ages and backgrounds from the wider community. The event was a huge success, filled with plenty of colour, entertainment in the form of dance and music performances and traditional festive refreshments. It was also a great way for the Aylesbury community to meet, learn about different cultures and have lots of fun at the same time!
Spring Festival of Colours – Holi celebrations at Bucks County Museum in 2019. The Mayor of Aylesbury along with visitors enjoying the day, 2019.
The Museum Director Sue Shave standing in the museum walled garden with visitors and the dhol drummers, 2019.
A young museum visitor throws some green colour powder to mark the colour festival, 2019.
Whilst this year Holi celebrations will be different due to COVID-19, the true spirit of Holi will still remain! Instead, families can join together to celebrate through online events. We appreciate the past year has been a difficult time for everyone, however it has been wonderful to see the community coming together to play their part during the pandemic; whether it may be simply adhering to the lockdown rules, or helping the most vulnerable in our community during these challenging times.
We hope that the day when we are all able to celebrate the festival of Holi together will not be too far. Until then, please take care & stay safe!
Wishing you all a Happy Holi!