Udta hai abeer

The colours of Holi and their music, dance and happiness have long found a place in hearts of Indians irrespective of their religion.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 19:54 IST

The coloursof Holi and their music, dance and happiness have long found a place in hearts of Indians irrespective of their religion. Holi, which literally means “burning”, is a harbinger of spring and symbolises victory of good over evil. If we look closely at the story behind Holi in which the evil Holika was burned and Prahlad came out of the fire un harmed, we are reminded of similar themes running through Islam, Christianity and Judaism. There is a resemblance between the Holika story and the story of Abraham who was put to trial by fire by Nimrod the despot.

Holi with its rich and romantic colours has wooed poets and emperors alike. Great Urdu poets like Meer Taqi Meer, Nazir Akbarabadi and the emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar himself have celebrated Holi in verse. While Meer Taqi Meer’s poetry is about Holi as it was celebrated in the court of Asif-ud-Daula, Nazir Akbarbadi captures the spirit of Holi as enjoyed by common men and women:

“The streets and bazaars are filled with beautiful damsels (Mamoor hain khooban se gali, koocha-o-bazaar)
Coloured powders fly and sprays throw colour (Udta hai abeer aur kahin pichkari hai maar)
Red colours spread like smoke in the air (Chaya hai gulalon ka har ik ja pe dhuandar)
In every direction a shower of colour (Padti hai jidhar dekho udhar rang kibauchar)
The burst of colour overwhelms everyone (Hai rang chidakne se har ik dang zamin par).”

Qutub Quli Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar brought out the spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of Holi through a celebration of Raas Lila. Indeed, Bahadur Shah Zafar gives us a beautiful picture of Radha and Krishna:

“Why did you spray colour on me? (Kyon mo par rang ki maari pichkari)
Look here Kuarji I shall rebuke you sharply! (Dekho Kuarji, doongi main gaari) How should I run away, I cannot run; (Bhaag sakoon main kaise mosu bhaaganahin jaat)
I stand watching as he approaches (Thaari ab dekhoon aukoon jo sanmukh aat)”.

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 19:54 IST