This 16th July, as part of “Les Noctibules” festival d’Arts de rue, even Annecy in Haute-Savoie, celebrates Holi, the famous festival of colours which have its origins in the country where I’m from, India.
To me, especially in this period of time, it’s not surprising to see how much Holi or ‘Phagwah’, the most colourful festival originally only celebrated by the followers of the Vedic Religion, has taken ground in countries with such opposite religious backgrounds to India, such as France within the Noctibules Festival in Annecy.
And the reason of me not being that much surprised about the spreading of Holi is that it does not matter if we celebrate the harvest and we welcome the arrival of the spring while happily painting our bodies and in other countries the pretext behind it is yet unknown, because everywhere the Holi festival lies in the premises of celebrating Unity & Brotherhood.
The chance of leaving behind all the differences between men and celebrating life without imposing any social barrier between people, it remains something of a strong importance in countries like mine where a regime of casts rule as well as in countries like France where a multicultural environment has been the cause of high tensions still nowadays.
Holi becomes then a day where the latin “semel in anno lecit insanire” becomes once a year the gathering of people of different cast, creed, color, race, status or sex is not only accepted but considered a sign of good luck for the future days to come.
On the designed day then, it takes place the event of the year when with sprinkling colored powder (‘gulal’) or colored water spread onto each other, we are able to break all the barriers of discrimination by making everyone looks the same at the same time, reaffirming so the universal value of brotherhood.
The word Holi’ comes from the Hindi word ‘hola‘, that means “offering oblation or prayer to the Almighty” as thanksgiving for a good harvest. As the tradition recites, Holi is celebrated every year to remind to people that those who love God shall be saved and those who don’t respect God shall be reduced to ashes- as it happened to the mythical character Holika.
Holika, the sister of the king-demon Hiranyakashipu is the main character of the old legend from where the Holi festival comes from. Her story, common to many others orally transmitted legends, includes a mixture of sin, lust, incest, love for freedom and God’s rage and power, justifies the annual bonfire on the night before Holi. Holi, the day of the newly born pact of peace between people, marks a new year, a new era and happens to inaugurate the first month of the year called in Hindi “Chaitra”. With the big bonfire on the last day of the last month of the year called “Falgun” we have already burnt our sins in the form of dry branches that we could get started with the joyful party.
I’m not originally from Bangalore, but there is where I have lived recently and I can assure you that in such big and à l’avantgarde metropolis Holi is celebrated exactly the way you will do on the 16th of July during Noctibules Festival in Annecy. Sure it is then that the celebration differs depending on where you found yourself in India.
My advice to everyone is then, no matter if you are dancing on the rhythm of the “Raaslila” to evoke Lord Krishna or on the chords of David Guetta, Holi will remain the hymn to brotherhood!
Ayush Ranjan– Etudiant IFALPES Annecy