Ab ke hori, let’s go back in time when the earth and the sky were not polluted by men and machine; when the dusty pathways running through the green pastures, in the season of spring, would be strewn with colours of different shades – red, green, blue, white, yellow, ochre; when the sky would be hazed by the flying fragrant abeer and gulaal; when colours would be made out of homemade vegetable dyes, plants, leaves, crushed petals, pollens etc.; when holi would not be a day’s celebration but be preceded by months ‘ preparations; when the benevolent monarch would open the doors to his royal court to all his subjects, rich or poor; when people would be dressed in their colourful best and dance and sing in unison “phagwaa brij dekhan ko chalo rii” , visiting one household to the other, pulling out the members one by one, smudging powdered colours all over, drenching them with pichkaari full of coloured water, munching meethais, embracing each other and cheering loudly “holi hai” !!!!!!!!!! In short, when life was simpler and holi was celebrated in its true essence sans hooliganism.
I remember last to last year, we had gone to attend a Hori Music Concert held at the back gardens of Hotel Ashoka under an ancient and huge Ashoka Tree. As Pundit Cchainulal Mishra, the Thumri Maestro, strummed his Sur Bahaar and bestowed life to his immortal Hori Thumris, the atmosphere was automatically electrified and charged with joyous and mellifluous vibrations. We sat on the stone steps, surrounding the tree and listened to him mesmerized, as dusk deepened into evening and evening crooned thousand Hori Leelas into the night’s ears. The sky became a network of sparkling stars and a beaming moon regally presided over the nocturnal darbaar. But astonishment abounded when Punditji finished his first rendition and the birds nesting in that stooping tree above, laden with an intricate filigree of branches and leaves, started chirping all at once, as though applauding unanimously the ethereal melodies of Raas Leela vocalized by Punditji.
Punditji’s thumris were followed by Quwwalis by Warsi Brothers. It was here that for the first time I learnt that in ancient times, the Dargas and Mosques held special Hori Quwwali sessions ushering in the Spring Festival. Hearing this, the blood baths and brouhaha over fundamentalism and religious issues seemed all the more meaningless and futile!
As I write this blog, a few lines of the poet Brahmananda floating in the air creep into my ears involuntarily:
“Kaisi hori machaai Krishana Kanhai Acharaja lakhiyo na jaai
Ek samay Sri Krishna Prabhu ko hori khelana mana aayi
Ek se hori mache nahin kabahu yaate karun bahutaai
Yehi Prabhu ne thaharaai, Kaisi hori machaai”
These lines refer to the infinite rounds of hori played by the Lord with his devotees in unison wherein the man-made narrow divides dwindle to dust!
“Paanch bisaya kii gulaal banaakar beech bramhanda udaayii
Jina jina nayana gulaal padi waha sudha budha saba bisraayii
Nahin sujhata apanaaii, kaisi hori machaayi”
Set in Raag Kaafi, the Hori (sang during Holi), describes the eternal leela of the Lord and his unique way of showing the path of the Ultimate Truth through innocent and impartial love in the form of abeer and gulaal.
Once bathed in the swirls of the divine abeer/gulaal, the devotees are rid of all moha-maaya and filled with such untainted piety and sublime love for their fellow brethren that there is no scope for hatred, violence, distrust and misgivings left in their pious hearts.
Ab ke hori, lets play like the Lord plays hori with his devotees!
Have a safe, cheerful, colourful and all embracing Holi!!!