KARACHI: Though the Hindu spring festival of Holi is known to be celebrated in the evenings here around the time of pooja of the Holi Mata, there were several people spotted at various places on Thursday sporting blotched clothes, their faces also smeared with colours much before the big celebrations. People were posting their coloured face pictures on WhatsApp, too the entire day along with ‘Happy Holi’ wishes.
The big ground behind Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was still the real place to celebrate Holi with complete freedom. There was no restriction on anyone who wanted to splash colour. People from all religions were welcome.
“I didn’t realise what day it was. I only learnt through Twitter and WhatsApp that it was Holi today so I called up my friends to make plans for today with them. And here we are,” laughed Majeed Butt, a young student at the ground playing Holi with four other boys and eight or nine girls. Someone aimed their colour gun filled with blue colour right on his mouth and it all went into his mouth when he was laughing and then there he was spitting out what he had not accidentally gulped down.
The group of kids were a bit early, it still being daylight with time remaining before pooja. “Yes, we weren’t sure about the timings, so are early. But that’s fine. We can stay till late and play Holi with our Hindu friends for whom it is a real celebration,” said Anushe, one of the girls.
And they were all dressed in mostly white. “Yes, we must have probably watched too many Indian Hindi movies where they have people singing and dancing at Holi festivals all dressed in white,” cut in another one of the friends who said his name was Shahrukh “just like Shahrukh Khan the Bollywood actor,” he pointed out in case one missed it.
“After arriving here, when we were buying powder colour and water pistols from the vendors outside, they told us that white was considered the colour of mourning by the Hindu community in Pakistan so we are splashing as much colour on ourselves, especially on our clothes before the big festivities get under way,” he explained.
Right in the middle of the ground some devotees were busy setting up the Holi Mata using wooden sticks, paper cardboard and then decorated it with red chunari. It is where newly-wed couples perform aarti and pooja along with new parents. Then the Holi Mata is set ablaze as bhajans are played in the background. The actual festival begins after the Holi Mata is completely consumed by the flames. Looking at Hindu mythology the ritual is to signify how good triumphs over evil. But Holi is also about the end of winter and the arrival of spring, hence the colours like so many colourful seasonal flowers that also bloom at this time of year.
Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2018