Holi – The Festival of Color, Foods, and Drinks by Harleena Singh
Colors magically connect with the emotions and moods of all human beings, and effectually make us jovial and happy. During Holi, all the people irrespective of their color, sex, caste, creed, or religion also get together for this enchanting festival in India. They rejoice with colors, foods, and drinks to express happiness, and symbolically celebrate life with the victory of good over evil, and spread the message of love, unity, and peace.
Holi is a centuries old Indian tradition, with its mention in the ancient Vedic mythologies, attributing the origin of this famous festival to the miraculous event that saved the life of a God’s devotee, and killed the demoness named Holika in a bonfire. Holi also marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring season, celebrated on one of the full moon days in the last week of February, or the first week of March every year. The festival of colors, as it is better known as, is the most awaited and liked festival for people of all ages. Not only because they get to play with powder colors, or get drenched in colored water, but also as they go around meeting people in their unrecognizable state, dance to the special Holi songs, and thrive to taste the most delicious traditional food and drinks only prepared during this festival period.
However, the most exciting feature is the granted freedom that one obtains to approach anybody, and color him or her as muchas possible begetting thrills, and specially from targeting those who try to prevent themselves from being colored. This is the only festival that closes the differences between people of different economic segments and you may witness even the poor applying the powder color called gulal to the rich, as symbolic of the fact that happiness is not the domain of any particular community. The people of other religions, especially the children and the youth take this opportunity to confluence with their Hindu friends, to experience and share the joy and ecstasy.
In the cities, mostly the youth form groups and take their motorcade to call on their friends and families, and relish the sweets and snacks offered by all. The adults and seniors mostly don all white attire called kurta pyjama, and carry a small packet of gulal to smear on the faces of whomever they meet, and hug each other in a typical style. The elderly women and homemakers form their own troupe and walk around to visit each house in their locality. It is a sight to see when the band of children, known as toli, delights themselves by spraying colors on the adults with their filled up water guns and sprayers called pichkaris. It is quite a common site in the tourist cities to find even some foreigners join in the Holi celebrations amongst themselves, and with the hotel employees.
The most special and symbolic Holi recipe is the delicious sweet gujhiya, made with dried whole milk powder and nut stuffing. Other preparations are dahi vada, which are fried balls of skinned and split white lentils preparations dipped in seasoned curd, puran poli that is the cooked sweet yellow gram paste preparation rolled up in a spread out of dough made from wheat flour, and besan papri with the salty preparations of gram flour in flattened fried small pieces. The people of Southern India prepare exotic sweet rice preparations and a variety of fruit mixtures, along with cold beverages called Sherbets.
Though many people indulge in drinking alcohol on this day, the traditional famous drink of Holi is the bhang lassi. Bhang isthe local name for cannabis or marijuana, which for centuries has been used for recreational and medicinal purposes in India. It is also associated with the Hindu God Shiva, and is available in special shops set up by the Government, specifically in northern India. The lip smacking thandai or bhang lassi is a nutritious refreshing drink, which is the liquid derivative of marijuana, and contains the extracts from the leaves and buds of cannabis in varying intensity that are intoxicating enough to escalate the spirit of Holi. It is prepared by squashing the buds and leaves of Cannabis into a green paste, and adding a mixture of milk, ghee or clarified butter, and spices to it. People also eat bhang mixed with pakoras that are balls of fried paste made from gram flour, or it is even eaten as golees, which are chewy little balls of bhang mixed with ghee and sugar.
If you practically wish to witness happiness, the jovial exuberance, unconditional human spirit, and an entire country drenched in fun-smashing colors, accompanied with scrumptious food and drink, you must visit India during the festival of Holi.