Holi festival in Pakistan: Good vs Evil – by Samia Saleem

2010 Holi in Krishna Mandir in Lahore

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Holi day: Good vs evil, not white vs colour
KARACHI: Draped in white with an unlimited supply of coloured water and powder and glasses of bhang – you are now prepared for Holi. But the festival of joy is not just about colour and fun, it’s about the arrival of spring. And more importantly, the triumph of good against evil.

Hindus in Pakistan are celebrating Holi on Saturday (19 March 2011) – the festival of colours – that falls in the lunar month of Phalguna of the Hindu calendar.

The frolicsome colour fights that are the highlight of the festival will, however, not start until the Holika Dahan (the burning of Holika) which is the raison d’être of the day that falls on Poornamashi (a full moon). An effigy of the demon Holika is burned on a stack of wood, straw and bamboo.

In Karachi, the biggest celebrations are held at the Swami Narayan Mandir near the city courts where the Holika fire is burnt at sunset with symbols of purity such as rice, sandal wood, ghee and milk. Special Holi prayers are offered with the worship of Ganesh and are accompanied by sermons, informed Raja Chauhan, who claims to have started the celebrations of Hindu festivals in the city.

Hymns are sung and free food is distributed at temples.

According to one tradition, newlyweds are to take seven rounds around the Holika fire – just as they take seven rounds at their wedding – to add purity in their relations. Festivities last for two days. This year there are 13 Holi events being held at different places in the city, said Chauhan. “We are going to have special prayers for the victory of Pakistan in the upcoming World Cup match against Australia.”

Pak Hindu Welfare Association chairperson Mangla Sharma said an estimated 0.3 million Hindus reside in Karachi and the numbers are increasing every day as they are migrating from interior Sindh.

In Lahore, a formal event will be held at the Krishna Temple where special security measures have been taken, said Syed Faraz Abbas, the Evacuee Trust Property Board deputy secretary of shrines. He said the temple has been guarded by CCTV cameras, metal detectors and walk-through gates. There will be minimal celebrations in respect forslain minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Mythology: Good vs evil

Holika was the daughter of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. He was granted a boon by Brahma for his long penance due to which he could not be killed “during day or night; inside a home or outside; not on earth or the sky; neither by man nor an animal; neither by astra (weapons that are launched) nor by shastra (weapons used by hand)” according to the Vaishnaya theology. Hiranyakashipu grew arrogant, demanding people worship him instead of the gods. But his own son, Prahlada, was a devotee of the god Vishnu. After trying several times to kill his own son, he ordered his daughter, Holika, to burn her own brother Prahlada. Holika, in her attempt, was burnt herself, while Prahlada emerged unscathed.

Hiranyakashipu was killed later by Vishnu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (not the sky or the earth) and mauling him with his claws (neither astra or shastra).

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2011.

Celebrating Holi in Pakistan 2011: Express 24/7 Report

Holi in Pakistan - Illustration by Ana Haleem

2010 Hindu community celebratin Holi in Karachi

Useful links:

Pakistan Hindu Post

Pakistan Hindu Council

Pakistan Hindu League



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