Back ground :Right from the day this son of Devaki
and Vasudev was brought to Gokul as an infant and placed in the
care of foster parents. Born in a prison in Mathura during the night,
he was taken away by his father to escape the wrath of his uncle,
Time passed. The people of Gokul had just harvested a good wheat
and gram crop - the first of the season. Winter was on its way out,
the spring flowers were budding and it was a full moon day. Also,
it was the month of chait or the first month of the Hindu year.
Since everything around them gave the message of new life and the
Nand household had an heir after a long time, the people of Gokul
decided to celebrate. So wheat and gram were roasted, flowers of
different colours were powdered and the women prepared sweetmeats.
There was great singing and dancing to the beats of the dholak (the
This became an annual ritual following the harvest and Hori became
a festival. There is an underlying element of eroticism in Holi.
In the exultation and revelry, in the physical act of smearing colour,
in the mock battles of throwing coloured water and gulal at each
other. Spring itself is the season of love. And this festival seems
to acknowledge and greet that.
But the origins of the eroticism lie in the story of Lord Krishna's
(the great lover in Hindu mythology) fabled love for his beloved
Radha. Holi is spread over two weeks in Mathura and Vrindavan, the
two ancient cities Krishna has been associated with. Here, along
with the coloured powder and water, lively processions come out
in the streets, folk songs and dances are performed to the rhythmic
beat of dholkis (folk drums), the mirror embroidered vibrantly coloured
long skirts of the women swirling and swinging in gay abandonment.
Hindu mythology is full of stories about Lord Krishna's childhood
pranks. And that of his youth when he with his mischief and the
sweet sounds of his bansuri (bamboo flute) captivated the hearts
of the gopikas (the cowherd girls), amongst whom he grew up. Among
the gopikas, especially, was his beloved beauteous Radha. Most of
the folk songs and folk dances, called Raas-Lila, in Northern India
performed during Holi are recitals of Radha's and Krishna's love.
The separations, the pining and the longing, the clandestine meetings,
the adoration . . .
A game called "Huranga" is played during Holi even today
symbolizing the Radha-Krishna love play. The men of Nandagaon, where
the youthful Krishna played his pranks, and the women of Barsana,
Radha's birth place, come together and clash. The objective being
that the men put a flag on Radhika's temple at Barsana, symbolizing
their victory over the women of Barsana, while the women beat the
men with stout sticks to keep them away.