- The Holi of Bengal
commonly referred to as the festival of colours, is the last
festival of a Bengali year. This Dolyatra is a festival being
celebrated from time immemorial. Legend has it that the great
Lord Krishna expressed his love on the day of Dolyatra, to her
beloved, Radha. This myth, is exploited by the masses to usher
in joy and happiness on the day of Dolyatra. Since this is the
last festival of a Bengali year, it is celebrated with great
houses in North Calcutta offer puja to Lord Radha Krishna before
starting the celebrations. For the devotees of the Lords, this
is an occasion to pray for the ushering in of joy and happiness.
In some houses, the pujas are held with great fanfare. Bhajans
are held day and night to celebrate the festival. Prasads are
distributed lavishly and then people start indulging in putting
'phaag' on all and sundry.
is also referred to as 'Basantautsav' since it is held in 'Basantakaal'.
The 'Basanta' is the equivalent of spring season. In this
season, the weather remains fresh - it is neither too hot nor
too cold. The mind of the people also remains fresh. Hence, all
of them join the revelry in a spirit of brotherhood. All
thoroughfares of Calcutta remain closed on that day. From
morning onwards, people start thronging the streets putting
colours on passerby's. Groups come out with dhols in their hands
singing songs of Lord Krishna and Radha. They distribute sweets
and put 'phaag' on everyone. Coloured powder, popularly known as
'phaag' is the basic ingredient of Dojatra. It is through the
use of 'phaag' that the expression of happiness of the people
come out. The young starts the day by putting 'phaag' on the
pictures of all deceased elders and then putting the same on the
feet of all elders. The elders, in turn, put the same 'phaag' on
the forehead of the youngers as a mark of blessing. After this
aspect is over, they go about putting 'phaag' on everyone else.
This ritual is very popular because the young and old take
recourse to joining this festival equally with the youngsters.
is observed with great gusto in Shantiniketan, in the campus of
Visva-Bharati University. The students of Visva-Bharati start
their preparations from long back. They take to decorate the
whole campus with beautiful artistic 'alpana'. On the day of
Doljatra, they being out 'Probhat-pheri' singing songs of Holi
based on Rabindranath. Dance-dramas and skits are also presented
on the occasion highlighting the importance of the occassions.
Almost all students of the University take part in the event.
Even the vice-chancellor joins the celebrations. The songs and
dramas are filled with colourful clothes and the use of 'phaag'
in keeping with the spirit of the occasion. People from all over
Bengal throng to Bolpur to witness the events. It is from
Shantiniketan that the usage of the term 'Basanta utsav' gained
popularity. The celebration was initiated by the Gurudev himself
and it continues till today. On the days of Doljatra, all hotels
of Shantiniketan remain booked. Even foreign tourists flock to
this place to gain a first-hand experience.
is celebrated throughout India. In the rest of India, it is
referred to as 'Holi'. Of late, the cassette companies have
started releasing cassettes featuring various aspects of the
festival. Not to be left behind, the card companies have also
started printing cards for the occasion. Al these have
contributed in making the festival more popular.
of late, certain digressions are also being observed. This event
has become the cause of headache of the police authorities. The
harmless spirit seems to have been getting lost. Drunken brawls
are slowly becoming commonplace. Hooliganism in the name of
putting colours are causing tensions. Even attempts are being
made to put colours on members of those communities who do not
observe the festival. Let us hope, that these aberrations cease
soon and Bengali drown themselves in unalloyed enjoyment once
more without malice towards anyone.