“Holi is a time to reach out with the colours of joy. It is the time to love and forgive. It is the time to express the happiness of being loved and to be loved through colours.” – Anon?
I hope the country is fully recovered from the excitement (?!) of our Local Government Elections and is ready for this Wednesday, when the entire country will be splashed with colours as Hindus and also non-Hindus celebrate Phagwah – the festival of colours. I just got back from school in Trinidad and I’m raring to go!! By late afternoon, parents will be hard-pressed to recognise even their own little darlings as everyone becomes uniformly colour-stained as they celebrate Phagwah.
In the morning, females of the home – that’s me and my mom in our home, thank you! – will be busy cooking all types of traditional Holi sweets like Gujiya, Gulgula, Ras Milai, Gulab Jamoon and Goja so that everyone will be free to go out and play Phagwah.
Phagwah commemorates the beginning of Spring, the triumph of good over evil and a time for new beginnings for everyone. It’s a story set many eons ago among a people called “Asuras” – traditionally opposed to the gods but incorrectly called “demons”. A young Asura prince named Prahalad had the courage to stand up to his own father, King Hiranyakashipu, who had started to challenge the gods. Because of a boon he received form Lord Bramha, he was nearly invincible and so filled with arrogance and pride. He demanded he be worshipped by his subjects.
To paraphrase Albus Dumbledore, “It takes great courage to stand up to our enemies but it takes even greater courage to stand up to our family (friends)”. And Prahalad had that courage. No matter how many times his father and teachers tried to convince him otherwise, Prahalad always kept his belief in Lord Vishnu. And his prayers didn’t go in vain. The king had his minions try every which way to kill his obstinate son but to no avail: the boy was protected by Lord Vishnu. This was even when his Aunt Holika, immune to fire, tried to burn him in a pyre.
Finally, Hiranyakashipu contemptuously challenged Prahalad to prove that Lord Vishnu was indeed in everything and everyone. Lord Vishnu appeared out of a pillar as Narsimha – half man-half lion. Hiranyakashipu’s boon was that he couldn’t be killed by man nor animal; not by hand nor by any weapon; not in the day nor in the night; not in a house, outside nor on the ground nor in the air. Lord Narsimha killed Hiranyakashipu with his claws, on his knee, on the doorstep of the Palace at exactly dusk. God will always find a way… once the devotee does his or her part. Prahalad was crowned King.
The lesson, of course, is that anyone can be a Prahalad by standing up to the Hiranyakashipu in their life. Life isn’t about always being a passive person who doesn’t have opinions or who doesn’t stand up for their beliefs. That’s not to say you should always pick up cudgels whenever someone steps on your toes. But you should always let them know firmly, that you’re not just someone they can take advantage of.
The story of Prahalad would’ve been told countless times last week as schools put on Phagwah shows incorporating the story as a skit or in Mandirs and in homes.
The message of Phagwah is a very strong one. Stand up for what you believe in; don’t be a carpet that everyone walks on. Always remember Prahalad, a young boy who has the strength and the courage to stand up for his beliefs. Don’t just go along to get along.
So everyone, go out this Wednesday and have a wonderful, colourful Phagwah! Holi Re!