Friday, March 9, 2012

Brij Holi

It had been on my “to do” list for years. Aqseer’s presence provided the catalyst and we were off early morning on 8 March, in the direction of Mathura, eager to experience a genuine “Brij ki holi”. 

The biggest thing going for us was our blissful ignorance. Not counting a cursory run through the online data about“Baanke Bihari” temple, we pretty much were without a clue.

Impatient with the car parking logistics, I just wanted to set foot on Krishna’s earth. They were all there, the cows, the monkeys, the saffron clad mendicants, the tourists in search of transcendental knowledge, the devotees and the colour merchants. And there was us; a family head feeling protective in face of the obvious gaiety and abandon, a young person thrust into a cultural assault of sorts and an impatient woman wanting to taste, smell, and absorb it all.

Enough and more information is available on the celebration of the festival of colours in Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon. It was the contagious dynamics of the space that was reaching me. What I was taken up with was the spirit, the energy, the fervour, the charged atmosphere of the place.

Perhaps I saw what I wanted to see. It is likely that my rose coloured spectacles were firmly in place. I feel a bit out of place with my soulful pronouncements in the face of the cynical, all prevalent, pragmatic air around but the truth is, I came back wholly energized and uplifted by the experience. The “aloo kachori”, “Radhey Radhey saffron scarves,” “pale mauve abir”, “peda prasad”, “free parking zone”…these were only the embellishments. At the heart of it all was the palpable, human oneness, crackling through the air, as we made our way with the throng, towards the temple.

Sure, there were misdirected missiles of colour, heading towards the eyes, ears and mouth. Some hyper energetic youngsters danced electric and jerky routines, barely able to contain their ardour and zeal. The crush got tighter as we neared the holy precincts. It was clear as we shuffled along that slippers should have been off and dark glasses on. We were grateful we had carried a change each but beyond all this, there was the faith in the air, the concern as people suggested ways to minimize colour damage, the sideways smiles, the confident invasion of personal space, the community accord if you will, the joint reliving of an ancient, timeless tradition, the sight of children and women enthusiastically participating from the safety of their balconies and doorways, along the narrow lane! 

My heart was adrenalized, the blood was yodeling and I was on a high. Never mind the fact that my camera got an abrasive douse and there was green powder floating in my cardamom tea.
Aqseer concluded, “We are a crazy country and that is why I love India so!” 

It is true. The proof was all around.Our national religiosity makes us a happier nation. The associated charity, the free and dutifully consumed prasad, the unquestioning spaces, the comforting rituals, and the group connection...these are features that keep millions of Indians alive in a contentious, corrosive, combative cosmos.

For a glimpse of the “Brij ki Holi”

Note: There is a generic fear of stepping out on Holi in India but at Vrindavan, I have to say, neither I nor Aqseer experienced fear nor a personal threat of any nature. 

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