The first imagination of the festival of colours Holi is of cheerful people with faces painted in all hues and colours, laughing and having fun. But as the world is progressing, the essence of the festivals and the rituals are slowly fading away. That is precisely why the colours of Holi do not reach our souls and do not last long enough to make our lives colourful in the true sense. Let us try and decode the deeper meaning behind this festival waiting to drench us all with colours once again.
The mythological tale
The story behind Holi is about a cruel Asura king, Hiranyakashyap, who forced his subjects to follow his orders and consider him to be God. But his son Prahlad defied his orders and kept his devotion to Lord Vishnu intact and surrendered to him completely. So much so that when the king made Prahlad sit in the pyre of fire with his sister Holika with the intention of burning him alive, he was miraculously saved. And in turn, Holika who actually was blessed not to get burnt by fire was reduced to ashes. This story signifies the burning of the pyre of wood to mark the festival, but the spiritual context of the entire festival goes much deeper.
What lies beneath all the fun and the colours
Let’s understand Holi is its ‘holistic’ form. Firstly, the festival is celebrated during that time of the year when the winter is just over and nature is blooming with colours and greenery. So the festival is all about reinforcing the spirit of life in every individual. It is about celebrating life and nature in its exuberance. It is a subtle way to remind the human mind that life is full of colours, happiness, fun and splendour. It is useless to be grim all the time.
The burning of the wood pyre to mark the end of Holika and survival of Prahlad from the evil hands of Hiranyakashyap signifies the victory of good over evil; the victory of pure consciousness over Maya, lust and desires. It also strengthens the faith of a seeker on the divine path of salvation. It reinforces that total surrender to the divine is the only way to self-realisation, the ultimate purpose of human birth. Hiranyakashyap signifies the deep-rooted desires and lust of a human mind which stops the pure intentions (Prahlad) to flourish and blossom. Holika signifies the Maya which engulfs the human mind totally but is unable to deter a pure mind. So in order to celebrate the festival in the light of pure knowledge, we need to burn our desires and defy Maya so that we come out clean and pure with total bhakti and surrender towards the divine.
Holi and Krishna
Holi and Krishna also share a strong relationship. Holi makes every devotee, bhakt fondly imagine Krishna playfully and mischievously throwing colours on Radha and all the Gopis. The colours soak Krishna and Radha alike and every gopi too finds herself playing Holi with Krishna colouring and soaking him with their colours and in turn themselves getting soaked by the colours Krishna throws at them.
Krishna is the divine supreme and pure consciousness and Radha is the culmination of utmost surrender and selfless bhakti. Every Gopi depicts every enlightened soul who finds itself in the warm embrace of the divine force. This beautiful unison of the divine and the seeker actually forms the true essence of Holi spiritually. It is about the unconditional love of the divine towards each soul and an equally unconditional love coupled with the total surrender of a seeker towards the supreme consciousness; whom we like to call God.
Spiritual Holi is like a battle of love between the seeker and the divine. Who will conquer the other with love? Because that’s what bhakti is all about; conquering with love and being conquered with love. It’s about divine love with the source and essence of life. The colours of Holi are the colours of life, the bright ones depicting happiness and the dark tones depicting the so-called undesired situations of our lives. But when the divine throws any shade of colour on the seeker, he accepts all the colours happily as they are but a mark of the divine’s grace over him in any and all circumstances.
Colour me blue
So this Holi, let us all soak in the colour of the divine. Let the Blue Krishna rub a little of his blue on us this year. Let’s raise our spiritual quotient and seek the divine who colours our souls with the lasting colour of his awareness. Let’s ask him to colour us; colour us blue!