By Kartik Bajoria
The festival of colours, a favourite among Indians in India as well as the diaspora abroad, is here once again. While students and children across the country enjoy a holiday from school, as parents, we must be able to articulate a clear message and significance of this festival to children, rather than letting it pass as ‘just another day off’. So what can we propagate as responsible parents to children this Holi?
Holi in mythology
It is a widely held belief that Holi was celebrated to mark the triumph of Lord Vishnu over the evil king Hiranyakashipu. The latter, having attained special powers, was nearly impossible to vanquish. The vicious king had spread terror and reigned supreme across the lands. His own son Prahlad was opposed to his father’s improprieties, choosing instead to follow and be a disciple of Vishnu’s. All too aware of Hiranyakashipu’s antics, Lord Vishnu had to accost the king at dusk, in the guise of a half-lion, and defeat him. It is this victory of good over bad, that Holi celebrates, along with the burning of Prahlad’s equally evil aunt Holika, who, despite her trickery of burning Prahlad at a pyre while wearing a protective cloak herself, succumbed to the fire when her cloak flew off her and covered Prahlad instead!
The vast Indian mythology has another explanation for the advent of Holi. As a child, Lord Krishna was distraught at his dark skin tone. Smitten with Radha, Krishna was convinced that she wouldn’t reciprocate his feelings owing to his complexion. At his mother’s behest, he asked Radha to colour his face with whichever colour she’d like it to be. Legend has it that Radha did apply colour to Krishna’s face, and they fell in love. It is this celebration of Radha and Krishna’s love which forms the other significant historic basis for the festival of Holi.
Spreading love and peace
While there are some children who may not fully appreciate the cultural backdrop and specifics of the history of Holi, as parents we can certainly talk about the essence of the festival. The overriding principles of Holi are a celebration of love and peace. As such, it is seen as an opportune time, not just to laud great relationships but also to repair damaged ones. It would be wonderful if we could explain this true meaning of Holi to our children by getting them to make amends with friends they had a tiff with, saying sorry to someone they had a falling out with, and rekindling special bonds and relationships that were important to them but fell by the wayside owing to silly squabbles and differences. While it is crucial to know the genesis of a festival, perhaps even more important is to understand and appreciate its real world and modern-day significance. From that standpoint, Holi is one festival that captures the authentic spirit of friendship and love, and should be celebrated as such.
Playful yet sensitive
An aspect of Holi that is undeniable, and must be pre-empted by us parents, is the actual ‘playing’ of it. Kids will be kids. Things can just as easily get rough and out of hand. What ought to be a joyous celebration of love and friendship can quickly and inadvertently turn into a fight. We must be aware of this possibility and try and protect against it. Perhaps a little chat with one’s children where we try and make them understand an overall, holistic ‘sensitive’ approach might be in order. That not only should children respect one another and play, ‘playfully’, not hurt, assault one another; also, that using artificial, chemical filled colours is insensitive to both themselves and to the planet. Alternative ways of playing Holi are plentiful now, with ‘flower-Holi’ proving especially popular. The chances of people getting hurt while doing this reduces dramatically, as does harmful exposure of the planet to chemicals.
The wonderful fact about our many Indian festivals is their commonality in espousing a message of peace, love and harmony. Going forward, we have an opportunity to focus more on the message, and less on the wasteful and potentially harmful and showy manifestations of these significant days of the calendar. If we as parents and adults can set an aware, restrained, and mature example for our children, they will naturally emulate and follow. Happy Holi!
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools. Views are personal.)