RAWALPINDI: As young boys broke an earthen pot, commonly called Matki, hanging in the middle of Krishna Mandir’s courtyard with butter inside it, the priest (Pandit) shouted, ‘Holi Hay’.
Soon after, people at the temple started throwing colours at each other, marking Holi, the festival of colours.
Hindus celebrate the festival at the start of spring season to remember the victory of a devotee of Hindu god Vishnu against the Raja of Multan who led evil forces.
The Hindus of Rawalpindi and Islamabad marked the festival on Thursday at Krishna Mandir in Saddar which had been illuminated.
Despite the rain, a large number of Hindu families residing in the twin cities arrived at the temple.
The function, however, started two hours late as some families from Islamabad had requested it to be delayed due to the bad weather.
Traffic police had closed the roads from Chota Bazaar and Kola Centre to Krishna Mandir for security reasons. Police personnel frisked people before they were allowed to enter the temple.
The event commenced with Durga Puja (prayer), which was followed by special prayers for prosperity of Pakistan.
“Our country needs peace and harmony, and we send out a message to the enemy that all citizens stand united,” said Jag Mohan Arora, who led the Puja along with the priest, Jai Ram.
As per Hindu customs, a bonfire is created from cow dung which is lit up with desi ghee. “The fumes rising from the cow dung purifies us and keeps us protected from evil throughout the year,” said Jai Ram.
“We mostly use colours which are prepared from fruits and vegetables. These colours are not harmful to the skin,” said Sunil Gill, a participant at the festival.
Explaining the bonfire ritual, Jag Mohan Arora said Raja Hiranyakashipu who ruled Multan and other areas of northern Indian subcontinent considered himself a god.
But his son, Prahad, who was a devotee of Vishnu, refused to accept him as god.
Prahad even tried to save his people from his father’s cruelty and preached the message of Vishnu. This infuriated Raja Hiranyakashipu who planned to kill his son.
To execute his plan, he sought the help of his sister Holika. Both planned to burn Prahad to death, and Holika took the responsibility of luring Prahad to the flames.
A large fire was lit up, and Holika, who wore a cloak which had been gifted to her by the gods, took Prahad into it.
Believing that she would not be burnt, Holika entered the fire with Prahad.
But she died, while Prahad remained safe. The fire turned into colours, Jag Mohan Arora said.
Explaining the tradition of breaking the pot, Mr Arora said: “We break the earthen pot in memory of Lord Krishna who liked butter.
Krishna’s mother kept butter in the earthen pot and hanged it from the roof but he broke it and ate the butter.”
Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2015