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A riot of colours

Updated March 30, 2013

Spring is here. The season’s breeze will blow in the colours of Holi across India. About this time Parsis, Kurds, Zoroastrian communities in South Asia and in their original abodes will celebrate the New Year or Nowroz. Parsis in Gujarat call it Navroj. They celebrate it as a 3000-year-old tradition.

Colours represent a myriad of elements in nature and have different interpretations across countries and cultures. Black is shunned as inauspicious in the West alongside similar interpretations of it in Hinduism. In Islam, it is the colour of modesty. Regardless of their subject meanings and purposes, colours are symbols which unite humanity across the world. No wonder the plants are forever green and the prismatic seven shades all stemming from white in the rainbow have inspired the muse in man! A rose is a rose, whether its blossoming in a poor man’s house or budding in a rich man’s garden. It quantifies the same amount of infinite and eternal love.

What unites the festivals of colours interestingly is not just the play of hues and splendorous visual choices. Haji Firuz, interestingly takes the form of Kampirak in Afghanistan and Holika in Hindu mythology. Firuz symbolises the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who as per legend is killed at the end of each year and rises from the ashes at the beginning of the New Year. His face is painted black (black is an ancient Persian symbol of good luck) and is draped in a red costume, singing and dancing through the streets of Iran with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer, indicating the coming of the New Year.

In Afghan land, “Kampirak” is dressed as an old bearded man once again wearing colourful clothes with a long hat and a rosary, symbolising beneficence and the power of nature. He and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people and hold performances such as the recitation of poetry. In Hindu Mythology, burning of Holika reflects the victory of good over evil which is celebrated as Holi across India. This depiction of good triumphing over evil or the resurrection of happiness intricately unites these festivals tying them together with the invisible thread of oneness.

But how can Holi/Nowruz be complete without a splash of music! While the Kurds feast on Persian music to celebrate the beginning of their New Year, it’s the Indian folk music which brings in the much needed adrenalin rush making the participants dance in a frenzy.

In India, Lord Krishna teases playful women, rubbing colour on their faces, which is the most widespread legend of Holi. The blissful acts of iconic Lord Krishna depicted in a rich mythology arouses the male folk towards romantic overtures. Whether some of these tales reflect well on the society is an area of debate with the increasing cases of reported disrespect towards women and rapes in India including the recent Delhi gang rape.

Thus, while we get drenched in blue, green, red, fuchsia and black, we need to introspect and ask ourselves whether some of our very own mythological legends reflect well on our society. Isn’t it time that we open our eyes to the vibrant palette of respect and helpfulness and ensure that we emerge as a more responsible society?


The author is a freelance writer and the co-author of his upcoming work titled “White skin, Brown mind”. He blogs here and can be reached at  

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.