Holi knows no bars, Holi knows no boundaries too. Across the world wherever Indians or people of Indian origin are present Holi is celebrated with gusto and bonhomie. People play with colours, light a bonfire called Holika and celebrate the victory of good over evil. Well, the essence of any festival is to take a break from the daily humdrum of life and make it interesting.
The other major intention of celebrating festival is to bring people together and generate a feeling of brotherhood and spread harmony all around. Nobody realizes the importance of celebrating festivals than the Indians settled abroad away from their country and cultural roots. At times they are more eager to celebrate festivals than their Indian counterparts. For celebrating festivals is what binds the people of Indian origin together and also to their roots. Just as in India, people settled abroad meet their friends and exchange sweets and greetings. Of course, the revelry is no less when it comes to colours.
Bengal region has a multifaceted culture due to the influence of Buddhist, Hindus and Muslim cultures. Though the country is Muslim dominated, Hindus too celebrate their festivals with gaiety. Of course, the pomp and show of Holi as witnessed in India is missing, nevertheless, celebrations do take place. Hindu community gather in temples and exchange greetings with each other and play with colours. Indian culture has influenced Bangladesh a lot as the country is nestled in the crook of the Bay of Bengal and is surrounded by India. It shares a border in the south-east with Myanmar and fronts onto the Bay of Bengal. The country is flat and dominated by the braided strands of the Ganges- Brahmaputra-Jamuna delta. Bangladesh’s Muslims and Hindus live in relative harmony.
Located in the north-east coast of South America, Guyana celebrates Holi with great fan fair. Holi or Phagwa, as the Guyanese better know, is celebrated by the singing of special songs called Chowtaals and by the spraying of coloured powder (abrack) and water (abeer). Children take special delight in the festival and submerge any passerby with their colourful water jets called pichkaris. The season of Holi, starts a month before with the planting of the Holika, a castor oil plant.
This plant is burnt one month later as Holika, commemorating Prahlad’s legendary devotion to Lord Shiva and also the triumph of good over evil. Holi happens to be a national holiday in Guyana as Hindus constitute about 33 per cent of the country’s population. Guyanese living overseas make special arrangement to be with the family at the time of Holi.
Holi in MauritiusJust as the many other major Hindu festivals, the large Indian majority, (about 63 per cent) celebrate Holi with a lot of enthusiasm in the island of Mauritius. It is an official holiday in the country and therefore people get all the time to make merry and drench themselves in the spirit of Holi and of course, colour water. Hindus, here duly perform the tradition of Holika Dahan or lighting of bonfire on the eve of Holi and celebrate the victory of good over evil.
Next day people revel and play with colours and drench everybody with water jets called pichkaris. While in the evening they greet each other with tilak and exchange sweets. Holi is also marked as a Spring Festival when the nature wears its best clothes and fields and flowers are in full bloom.
Holi is celebrated with great pomp and show in Nepal. Celebrations lasts for a week in which the entire country gets drenched in the coloured water. Celebrations are of marked importance at Terai and also where Indian community mainly Marwaris have settled. Families and friends get together and celebrate the occasion with a lot of merry making. All over the streets people can be watched having fun, throwing colours and waterballoons, locally called ‘lolas’ on each other. Though play of colours takes place on the last day, a ceremonial pole called, ‘chir’ is installed on the first day.
Chir is a bamboo pole fringed with strips of clothes representing good luck charms. As the pole is put up in the street at Basantapur, the festivities and worship commences for the week. At the end of the festivities chir is taken to a bonfire. There is a popular legend behind the installation of chir. The story is again about the mischievous nature of Krishna who just loved to pray pranks with the milkmaids or gopis. Playful as he was, it is said that once he seduced all the local girls with his dashing good looks. He then danced with them all and when they fully engrossed in him, then he thought they were ripe for a tease.
He doused them in coloured water and stole all their clothes while they were bathing in the water of river Yamuna. Naughty Krishna then hung their clothes on a tree to bug them. Chir symbolizes that very tree. The other legends popular in India as that of Prahlad and his devilish father, Hiranyakashyap. Hiranyakashyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. However, Prahlad was saved for his extreme devotion by Lord Vishnu while Holika paid a price for her sinister desires.
Every year just as in India people in Nepal light a bonfire- called Holika to mark the victory of good over evil. Also known is the legend of Pootana who tried to kill infant Krishna by feeding her poisonous milk on the direction of devil hearted uncle of Krishna called Kansa.
Hindus residing in Pakistan also celebrate holi, though, of course, in not as grand a fashion as seen in India. People celebrate the victory of good over evil forces by lighting bonfires called Holika. The tradition comes from the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakashyap. In fact, people follow the same traditions and rituals as in India due to their roots in India. People clean their houses and prepare special delicacies like gujiyas, papri and dahi badas.
They meet up with friends and play with the colours, dance and generally have good time. Hindus usually gather in temples and celebrate the Holi there. Much gaiety can be seen in temples located in cities which have a comparatively greater Hindu population. Such as in Lahore and Sindh region.
Hindus settled in UK do not miss out the excitement of Holi celebrations and enjoy to the hilt. Zeal for the festival is particularly marked in this country as Indians constitute the second largest ethnic minority. Celebrating festivals help them to feel close to their families and cultural roots. The celebration of Holi is noticeable at places that witness a large congregation of Indians. The British city of Leicester is particularly known for its love for celebrating Indian festivals.
Excitement reaches its peak when the occasion is that of celebrating a joyous festival like Holi. Children love to use their spray cans and colour each other. Holi parades are also carried and in the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They hug each other and also apply the tilak as the meet Holi in a traditional manner.
With a large population of Indians settled in the United States of America, Holi is celebrated with gaiety and lot of fanfare in this country. Different societies formed by the Indians and religious organisations help people to celebrate this joyous festival and feel close to their cultural roots. Music programmes and Holi Meets are also organised by them to mark the occasion. These meets help the new generation to identify with their cultural root.
Children learn to understand the significance of celebrating festivals and know legends asociated with them. Great enthusiasm for the festival can be specially witnessed in cities where large number of Indians have settled. Holi celebrations are particularly marked in the city of New York.