Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


A riot of colours

Updated Aug 05, 2013 04:44pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

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.

Comments (50) Closed

SBB Mar 30, 2013 03:17pm
I have no idea what the message of this article is. Something about colors, people, places but just random writing for the sake of writing.
abbastoronto Mar 30, 2013 03:42pm
Colour has been used to divide men. The Sanskrit word for caste is varna, meaning skin colour, the higher castes being lighter skinned than the darker skinned. Mohammedan Islam came to eliminate differences of people based on colour, caste, gender, origin, or Tribe. Black is not superior to white. All non-Muslims who celebrate colour are tied to the agrarian economy. Islam came for the advanced economy of trade and travel. There is no place for colour in Islam. Non-Muslims should adapt to the emerging world of Globalization and Free Trade. Does Holi have any place in the emerging Trading era?
Faiza G R Bhatt Mar 30, 2013 03:51pm
beautiful article on a beautiful subject! colours are formed with objects reflecting that colour back. a rose is red, not because it is red in colour, but because it absorbs all other colours and reflects red back to us. that is why i say beautiful people reflect back many colours for others to enjoy. the festival of holi, eid, mehendi, wedding, etc. all are colourful and therefore, enjoyable. we need to keep these traditions alive and not lose them on excuse of 'saadgi'.
Steadyfriend Mar 30, 2013 04:04pm
Those in enforced mono-cultural countries will never be able to appreciate diverse philosophies and beliefs.
Kaly Mar 30, 2013 05:36pm
First come out of Islam...Islam...Islam mindset and see the world in secular way....its pathetic you are in Toronto and still think this way
Naresh Sharma Mar 30, 2013 05:37pm
Dear abbastoronto... u are completely sick mind... don't spoil this forum by spreading hatred.. i don't know y dawn publish his comments.. there is no religion is superior to other... every religion is superior .. we must respect every religion and culture of this world and when we will understand this we will start respecting humanity..
khatun Mar 30, 2013 06:21pm
But Abbas,you prefer to live in a non-muslim country.
khatun Mar 30, 2013 06:22pm
There is no place for colour in Islam......... But violence has.
Joe Mar 30, 2013 07:05pm
I feel pity for you.
Siyalkotia Mar 30, 2013 07:58pm
See the progress Muslim have made under Islam.
DHK Mar 30, 2013 08:34pm
isn't religion used to divide men as well ?
Bakul Mar 30, 2013 09:50pm
Abbas, the man from Toronto, I have read your comments in Dawn many times with interest. You pretend to be authentic in history, religion and history of religion. World should be be devided in two parts - Muslims and Non-Muslims. Please do not see the world from Islamic angle all the time. Canadian society has greate secular value but sadly your stay in Toronto did not influence your thinking even a littel.
abbastoronto Mar 30, 2013 10:02pm
No. Religion binds people with similar economic outlook together. Colour divides people. Black against white against brown against yellow. And in the same colour dark shade against light shade as in Indian Caste System. Go to any church or mosque, and you will find blacks and whites and yellows and browns standing shoulder to shoulder.
Ram Krishan Sharma Mar 30, 2013 10:31pm
Dear Abbas, you live in Toronto , and still sing songs of Islam while enjoying all the benefits of a free society and culture ie , Christainity . Name any Muslim country which has excelled in trade compared to non - muslims after following the Quranic principles of trade for 1300 hundred years . Thr GDP of the state of Maharashtra ( India) exceeds the GDP of whole of Pakistan.
al Mar 31, 2013 01:43am
All religions are supposed to lead the followers to salvation. Our paths are different but destination isn't. All human, all aiming for same outcome. Holi, Eid, Diwali, all are for everyone. Let us not worry about what divides us - for once let us be one , be together, be humans.
Bharat Mar 31, 2013 02:13am
Good article. Introspection without bias is probably the most important element of solving problems.When you have blocks like 'Anti-Criticism' you can not have clear introspection. The way to solve problems is not have blocks against it.
Mohabbat Mar 31, 2013 02:35am
Holi should be made compulsory in Pakistan and declared a national Holidya.
religion of Mar 31, 2013 03:16am
So help me understand why there are so many divisions in pakistan. Why the only person who won in the islamic state of pakistan is never even mentioned. Why is there are so much of violence between sunnis and shias. You can never explain that. Grow up brother.God bless you.
Faiza G R Bhatt Mar 31, 2013 03:28am
steadyfriend, i am afraid to say that you are colorblind my friend. Pakistan is multicultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual just like India. these aspects are well known, are well taught in our schools, and all pakistanis are aware of it. on top of it, pakistanis are multi-religious for no matter how much islam we talk about, we have ourselves created so many sects of that religion and called each other non-muslims that now we have the most number of religions in our beloved land ;-) no other country comes close to us in this respect.
Ram Krishan Sharma Mar 31, 2013 03:43am
Dear Abbas , Yes , Holi has a place in your so called emerging trading era . Here are some facts : GDP ( Gross Domestic Product ) of India is about 9 times that of Pakistan and is equal to the combined GDPs of Saudi Arabia ,Iran ,UAE , Malysia and Pakistan. Now tell me which islamic countries are ahead of trade and travel after 1300 years of Quranic experience when compared to non- muslim countries. Note GDP is an indicator only of how well a country is performing.
Sradhanand From Mauritius Mar 31, 2013 07:58am
I used to believe Pakistanis in the West learn to respect all religions
raj Mar 31, 2013 09:17am
In trading blows and bombs, true there is no parallel to your said religion. You claim no caste bias but what about shias sunnis ahamadis and all the in fights within. More Muslims are killed in Pakistan everyday due to ethnic violence than whole of the world put together in all other religions.
Atoronto Mar 31, 2013 09:31am
He is not from Toronto. He resides somewhere near Durand Line.
Sabita Mar 31, 2013 09:42am
Beautifully written. The nicest about ur article is ur conclusion. You encourage ppl to be responsible & unite even in the face of diversity. U explain what colors mean to different individuals, communities, societies and across religions!
Nauman Mar 31, 2013 09:45am
This guy truly represents a very sick side of Islam or any religion for that matter, a bipolar disorder whose sufferers need to be taken care of in special care homes.
SUNIL Mar 31, 2013 10:39am
So drab and grey! Pity indeed
Zimbo_Indian Mar 31, 2013 11:17am
I like the precision of your comments.
RPK Mar 31, 2013 12:13pm
Go to any Hindu temple you will find the same. However I do not find a Shia in Sunni mosque, a protestant in catholic church and vice versa.
Rahmat Mar 31, 2013 01:34pm
What a silly write up.. What has Varna got to do with Sanatan Dharma - the foundation of Hinduism that treats all beings as equal (Male and female). Varnas were created by civil society to distribute work andunfotunately it became coified. It was not a religious edit by any stretch of imagination. Now let us talk about SAnskrit -Sanskrit is a language and it is not the foundation of Dharma - it remains a vehicle of expression. Regarding the assertion that all non-muslims are tied to agrarian economy is a myth that is being propogated recently.. Long before arrival of Islam in Indian, Indians were trading with nations in the far east that traded spices , minerals, silk and the lke. It is sad if there is no place for colour in Islam. Take colour out of life, the world will be dark and dull place. Colour is universal expression, we have flowers of different hues as are the birds. Does the writer believe that Islam does not recognize colourful birds and fowers and other species. The writer should ask between non-Muslim nations and Muslim nations which are trading at the highest volume and he would find a revealing answer.
DCM Mar 31, 2013 06:11pm
Faiza, You almost had me there thinking you were serious in saying what you just did above! You're funny!
DS Mar 31, 2013 06:51pm
Islamic advanced Economy? Where and when?
Abb Mar 31, 2013 07:22pm
Faiza, I am from Damn Pakistan and sad to say so.... wish my motherland have been somewhere in sudan/somalia or somewhere else would have been better.....
viv Mar 31, 2013 07:29pm
do jains,buddhists live in pak...are ahmadi recognised.? can u be multi-religious? pak is islamic state and u shud know that before writing
Amarnath Mar 31, 2013 07:30pm
"The season
Rihat Mar 31, 2013 09:12pm
Last year this person pretending to be a Hindu from Canada used to inundate the Times of India readers comments with lengthy anti-Hindu posts. The style of writing is familiar.
Wasim Apr 01, 2013 12:29am
Abbas,I am happy that you guys who live at Af-Pak border have internet connection to air your comments here.
Milind Apr 01, 2013 05:00am
Duh!!! Abbasbhai you're probably not aware of the treatment meted out to your 'less Muslim' brothers in the Gulf countries... They cannot take the front rows during their prayers, forget being a khateeb of a mosque there - these are reserved for the higher Arabs and the less Muslims are relegated to the back rows - yes all this happens in mosque during prayer time... So please spare us your pearls of wisdom...
steadyfriend Apr 01, 2013 06:29am
Yes, you are right! As Ayatollah Khomieni said "There is no humour (and by extension, no colour either) in Islam, it is DEADLY serious!"
steadyfriend Apr 01, 2013 06:33am
Yeh hui na mohabbat ki baat! Holi ke saath saath Diwali bhi manayen!
steadyfriend Apr 01, 2013 06:37am
Ramji, I believe the GDP of Spain is higher than the combined GDPs of all the Islamic countries, taking their oil wealth into consideration! And Spain is NOT the most advanced amongst the non-Islamic industrialized countries!
Gunjan Apr 01, 2013 06:59am
Why don't people get sarcastic humor? Nothing brings home the point like humor- not lamenting, not criticizing.
ranveer Apr 01, 2013 07:04am
And those "holi playing" "north Indians" who according to you only celebrate holi are spread across india ( for many reasons-from job to work). So what is wrong with the statement??. Can not you take it as a generalized statement? Why such a loud cry?
steadyfriend Apr 01, 2013 07:10am
Aur, Punjab mein Basant ko na bhulen!
DKS Apr 01, 2013 08:09am
Why are you so afraid my friend? Why anything out of the book frightens you? Why do you see division in a festival that inherently celebrates unification ? Real motto of Holi is to give the message of Equality and Uniformity as a social philosophy.This is the festival to spread love , peace and joy among all beyond any perception of Religion,caste and Region. Bura na mano hoili hay ! :)
DKS Apr 01, 2013 08:19am
More diversity a society relishes more unified it becomes. More unification it enforces more divided it will emerge! - Dinesh :)
Bipul Apr 01, 2013 09:49am
Holi is not linked to mythology in India and it is just a celebration of new year as Hindu calendar starts with onset of Spring. It's a huge festival in most parts of India that brings people together. As far as religion goes, it is nothing but a way to reach God. It also gives us reasons to come together and celebrate through festivals. I don't read more into my religion. That keeps my life uncomplicated and happy. Hope some day all of us will rise above our religion, recognize God as omnipresent and just focus on leading a happy, meaningful and healthy life. The world would change and all of us will live happier than before.
kaly Apr 01, 2013 10:41am
Holi is celebrated in eastern India, know as 'DOL', if you don't know.....thats your problem.....
vijayIndia Apr 01, 2013 11:02am
Holi is all over India except Tamilnadu and kerala
Aslam Apr 01, 2013 11:27am
well i don't think she is being sarcastic in her comment.. so obviously people didn't noticed.
Khatun Apr 01, 2013 01:17pm
You forgot the beating of south Asian Muslim illegal people by the Arab police.