MOKAMA, BIJAR: Celebrations of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, were in full swing on Friday, with people joyously splashing each other with powdered dye as the pandemic showed signs of receding across the country.
Marking the end of winter and symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, Holi is observed on the last full moon in the lunar month of Phalguna with bonfires, sweets and dancing to traditional music.
Celebrations were muted for the past two years due to restrictions on gatherings as COVID-19 cases soared, but infections have come down sharply in recent weeks from more than 300,000 a day in January to less than 3,000.
“People are more free and at ease because the restrictions have been lifted,” Rajiv Mehta, president of a housing society in Noida, told Arab News.
This year, Mehta is hosting a Holi feast for all the housing society’s 2,000 residents.
“We are not as restrained as before and there is less fear of coronavirus this time,” he said. “This is an important festival for all of us and the day allows us to let loose, eat and play with colors without any restraint.”
Holi derives its name from Holika, the demon sister of evil King Hiranyakashipu in Indian mythology, who tried to forbid his son from worshiping the Hindu deity Vishnu and wanted to kill him with her help.
Hiranyakashipu ordered the two of them to sit on a burning pyre, lying to the son that his aunt, who was immune to fire, would protect him. But when the flames struck, it was Holika who burnt to death and demon king’s son survived with the help of Vishnu.
The night before Holi, Hindus burn pyres to symbolize the death of Holika and triumph of good over evil. As the next day arrives, they pelt each other with powdered pigments in an explosion of joy and equality, as color hides all class lines.
Dr. Vivek Vishvas, lecturer at Maharaja Agrasen College of the University of Delhi, said Holi, as a social festival, is “different from other festivals celebrated in India.”
“People, be it rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, all come together to celebrate the festival. This festival is not complete without the involvement of the larger society.”
For Jai Prakash Yadav, a schoolteacher in Mokama in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Holi is a “therapeutic.”
“It allows you to take liberties and engage in playful banter with others,” he said. “This year the virus is not creating havoc, and this has given greater freedom to play and celebrate this lovely festival.”
One doctor’s advice was to enjoy this freedom as long as you don’t not have coronavirus symptoms.
“Compared to the past two years, COVID-19 is less visible, and this has given the opportunity to people to indulge in Holi festivities this year,” Dr. Avinash Bhondwe, former president of the western chapter of the Indian Medical Association, told Arab News.
“If people want to play Holi, they should play. If they get a cold, they should get tested immediately to contain the spread of the virus.”