Diplomats celebrate the festival of Spring, Holi

    NEW YORK (TIP): The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations celebrated Holi at the permanent mission here on Wednesday, March 27, in style and with great enthusiasm. Colors and flower petals expressed the feeling of joy and delight that pervaded the atmosphere.

    Holi is one of the most popular festive occasions in India. The holiday celebrated mainly by the Hindus in India and Nepal marks the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil. Bonfires are set on the eve of Holi, and the next day the Hindus throw colored dry powder and water in celebration. It is also observed by the minority Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan as well in countries with large Indian Diaspora populations following Hinduism, such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, the United States, Mauritius, and Fiji. Holi is of particular significance in the Braj region of North India, which includes locations traditionally connected to the Lord Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana, which become tourist destinations during the season of Holi. There is a legend associated with celebration of Holi. The word Holi originated from “Holika”, sister of Hiranyakashipu.

    The festival of Holi is celebrated because of a story in the old Hindu religion. In Vaishnavism, Hiranyakashipu is the great king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed “during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or in the sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra”. Consequently, he grew arrogant and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praising respectfully to him.

    According to this belief, Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Vishnu. He was poisoned by Hiranyakashipu, but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre in the lap of Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s demoness sister, who also could not die because she had a boon preventing her from being burned by fire. Prahlada readily accepted his father’s orders, and prayed to Lord Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed.

    The salvation of Prahlada and burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi. In Mathura, where Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi) in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. The festivities officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love. The party at the Permanent Mission of India was hosted by Acting Permanent Representative Ambassador Manjeev S. Puri and his staff, who were in the best of spirits of Holi throughout the evening. Mrs. Puri who was dressed in a beautiful multicolored Saree for the multicolored occasion was enthusiastically going round, supervising arrangements and taking care of guests.

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    The event was attended by Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, Ambassador Palitha Kohona, and Permanent Representative of Republic of Singapore, Ambassador Albert Chua besides diplomats from many countries, and officials at the UN. Ambassador Puri was seen applying colors on his guests and welcoming them to the heavily attended celebratory party. He joyously threw flower petals and colors at the guests, as is the custom during Holi. The authentic Indian menu included Thandai, a special drink made during Holi and much other Holi specialty food that included chats and sweets, among many other delicacies.

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