Indian culture is known to be one of the brightest and liveliest cultures around the world and why should it not! After all, it’s the land of thousand festivals and larger-than-life celebration. One such festival very close to India’s heart is the festival of colors – known as Holi. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun month as per the Hindu calendar.
Recently, Rishikul Yogshala celebrated this festival at its Rishikesh school with full pomp and show. Here is an account of the celebrations from one of our beloved students – Emma.
Sunday 12th March – Evening Bonfire Ceremony.
We began our fun-filled Holi celebrations at Rishikul Yogshala on Holi Eve in traditional fashion.
Following our evening meal, all students, teachers, friends and visitors of Rishikul Yogshala gathered in the garden of the school grounds to attend a pre-Holi bonfire ceremony lead by Guru Ji (our Brahman Priest) and some of the teachers.
Laid out on a small table in front of the large pyre of unlit branches and kindling were some flower and spice offerings for the Puja that was about to take place and four large plates; each filled with a different color powder that would be used for the much anticipated ‘colour play’ once the bonfire was lit. Guru Ji and two of our teachers stood by the table waiting to begin.
The ceremony was opened as you would expect with a harmonious sequence of group mantra; starting with three powerful Om, the Ganesh Mantra, the Guru Mantra (two of the Mantras learnt by all students of the school) and 3 Shanti. A small explanation soon followed from Vimal Ji (the school’s philosophy teacher) of the significance and meaning of the Holi Festival – The Festival of Colours, also known as The Festival of Love.
He explained that the festival celebrated the power of good over evil and that the Holi Eve bonfire represented the light which always prevails over darkness. If you want to erase darkness – turn on the light. And with that, Guru Ji began his chanting prayers and the pyre was lit ceremoniously.
The fire warmed the night air and everyone witnessing was happy for the comfort of the flames as we watched the priest bless the teachers and staff members lovingly one by one by smearing colour on their faces… the gesture was returned to him until Guru Ji was awash with colour and the ritual soon became a free-for-all frenzy of fun and festivity with loud popular Punjabi hits, dance moves of all sizes and shapes and of course the continuous colour-bombing that went on into the night.
Monday 13th March – Holi Day – Festival of Colours
Today everyone was off work and ready to play!
For many ‘play’ started well before breakfast upon venturing up to the rooftop for some morning sun bathing and meditation, we were met literally head-on with a face full of colours by fellow students who were already mischievously hiding out ready to pounce on their Holi prey.
The local monkeys wanted a piece of the action too… subsequently not for the Holi fun, but for the small chance the bags of coloured powder were in fact bags of food. They were severely disappointed with their steal – a one of epic fail proportions – they were left only with a face full of pink powder and not a banana in sight!
After rescuing the colour bag back from the cheeky looters, we proceeded to breakfast, where we enjoyed a special Holi sweet and then headed to the garden again for more colour play and dancing. Just when you think you can’t possibly be coloured anymore, another layer lands on you from out of nowhere. It’s a colourful dusty mess, everywhere you turn… the only thing you can see clearly is the whites of peoples teeth as they laugh and smile uncontrollably and shout Happy Holi to everyone that enters the arena of colour and love.
These celebrations took place in hundreds of spots in and around the villages of Rishikesh. Other Rishikul student groups in buildings further afield were doing the same and it was decided we should all join together for one big colour-bomb disco… and so we did.
Venturing through the village lanes and then streets of Laxman Jhula to meet at the 300hour building across the bridge was what can only be described as a colourful chaos. We were water-bombed, colour-bombed and photo-bombed every step of the way. Stealth children lurking in alleyways and on roof top terraces were armed with water pistols and water bombs – they showed no mercy! An endless number of street party folk were armed with yet more paint; there was no escape! We learnt very quickly that surrendering to the face-smothering love and well wishes of the festival goers was the only way to pass through the crowds. Luckily this was a festival of joy so the crowds felt loving and safe with more smiling faces and more white teeth against the colour canvas of Laxman Jhula square.
Finally making it to our party destination, we smothered fellow students friends and staff in continuous rounds of colourful hugs, entertained each other with our colourful dance moves, ate colourful sweets and of course drank some tea! Some of us bathed in the sun, simply because it was a gorgeous day and we could, while others ventured back out to join in the street party and visit the nearby Ganga. We gradually went our own ways to enjoy the remainder of Holi.
All and all it’s fair to say it was a Happy Holi day enjoyed by all – the colours, the music and of course the play!