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Millennium Post

To new beginnings

To new beginnings

India's visage, steeped in tradition, designate the multi-coloured cultural hues of the land, more on the lines of social bonding and comprehensiveness that gives way to each ritual being pulled out of its spiritual context and getting transformed into a celebration. Holi has a very contemporary metaphor in today's India. One of this country's favourite festivals, it is celebrated to mark the beginning of spring, ushering in the spirit of freshness and shedding the mundane. More importantly, it invokes inclusivity and hence, people from all faiths can be a part of it. There are a number of myths associated with this extant ritual of smearing colour on friends and family but what stands out is the fact that it is one of the greatest testaments to Hinduism's absorptive capacity. From far and wide, people visit their families and close ones. The schools, colleges and universities across India celebrate Holi with great enthusiasm. Foreign students, who visit India to obtain academic degrees, participate in great numbers. Tourists from all over the world visit India to witness Lathmar Holi in Mathura and Vrindavan, where Krishna was born. In Punjab, people engage in Hola Mohalla, a yearly fair that was first organised by Sikh Guru Gobind Singh to celebrate Holi. Special demonstrations of physical agility, wrestling, martial arts, sword fights, military exercises and turban tying are part of the celebration. Vasant Utsav in Santiniketan is inspired by Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore who introduced this festival at Viswa Bharati. Students, dressed up in bright-coloured attires, celebrate Holi through cultural programmes. They play 'Dol' with abir and flowers. Hundreds of foreigners take part in this event every year. In north India, various theme parties are held across the region. People set up bonfires, offer prayers and toss coconuts in the flames to signify the death of negativity and sorrow. In the present context, with the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections just round-the-corner, the politicisation of this festival may not be a fitting pivot. However, there have been earlier instances when such festivals have witnessed throngs of men carrying out victory marches amid packed street corners, shimmying wildly, smeared in colours. And in Indian politics, as it is in this country's character, every new beginning (including the spring season) witnesses a 'colourful' welcome. From parties that have won recent elections to those celebrating Holi, gulal is a recurrent requisite. But it is important to understand that incendiary rhetorics and religion-baiting communal politics are no longer the order of the day. For this new India, as vintage veneration evokes reverence for the archaic, it also brings with it an essential change — the only constant in this country. Happy Holi!

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