Monday, March 1, 2010

Fire play... the day before holi - something we tend to forget

We seem to add value something at the expense of something else.

The Context

In Bengal, on the day before the festival of colour, festival of fire takes place. At the end of the winter, people collect fallen leaves dried up branches of the trees to burn down and wait for the new beginning.
The Spring mood
The Mood

The festival of colour commonly called Holi which is equated with spring. Onslaught of spring depicts picture of dried up branches flowery trees, clear blue or crystal black canvasy sky, dry leaves that create sound with each step. The soothing temperature, vibrant flowery nature sets the mood for a 'search' which brings nature closure.
Spring and laws of attraction

The Myth

The festival takes place during 3 or 4 days preceding the full moon day in the month of Phagan. The myth says, ancient demonic King, Hiranya Kashyap had compelled everybody to obey him except his own Son Prahlad. Prahlad used to be a true devotee of Lord Vishnu and in consequence, King's tremendous torture and attempt to murder remained unsuccessful. Once the Hiranya asked his sister demonic Holika to hold Prahlad and sit on fire. King thought, since Prahlad is immune to fire Holika would also remain unhurt. However, as the fire set on both of them, Holika died but Prahlad remained unhurt.

The fire festival according to myth indicates the killing of demonic Holika and protection of devotee Prahlad.
Fire - hit and wind
The interpretations

Social scientists and symbolists have focused on the diffusion of Tribal elements to the Hindu Religion. It symbolises the true spirit of devotee whose faith has the power to overcome any adverse situation.

Fertility: interpretations

The festival takes place at the end of winter and beginning of spring. The moods and attitudes of the festival participants indicate breaking down boundaries. The fire symbolises pride and the source of power located in human fertility. The symbol of fire indicating fertility is used by many in films and also plays a central role in Hindu rituals having deep rooted connotation.

People's participation and play with fire enhances and sets the mood in comfortable temperature with naked trees and fallen leaves. The interaction and chorous voice "Aaj aamader nerapora kal aamader dol/ purnima te chaNd utheche bolo horibol" - To day is the fire tomorrow is the colour/ look at the full moon and say "horibol". The word horibol has at least two connotations in contemporary bengal – a) a loud call to the God Vishnu, who is also known as 'hari', and b) it indicates a frenzy, anomic and disorganised condition. The God Bishnu has different names and appearances among them Shri Krishna is very famous for love making. In a way the symbols of love and people being frenzy with the fire indicates the mood of romance and love making.

The Culture and Cognition


In the relational domain, strong kinship, defined and compartmentalised society leaves little room for a free flowing touch, smell and mixing of people. Human beings being not just another animal have learned to control certain drives and instincts. In a way instinct is replaced by freedom, however, the freedom is structurally exercised by the society. However, relative freedom is provided, in the name of festival which starts with burning down the old and unused and in a sense symbolically provides a refreshed cultural domain.

The Functional Domain


The festival uses accumulated heaps of dried leaves, branches and waste materials. Burning down these items yearly indicates hygienic behaviour. People's large scale community based participation enhances social capital.

When we are in the mood for colours and play with our frenzy self are we still missing something?

1 comment:

  1. As you must be aware that in Bangla, this festival preceding Holi is called Nyara Pora. The word 'Nyara' has etymologically evolved from the word 'stubble' or the 'nara', the three-headed remains of the paddy plant after it is harvested. By burning the 'nara', the community officially begins a new season of fertility...the Burir Ghar, or the Hut of the Witch is the abode of the evil spirit which is also burnt down, thereby demolishing the possibility of a bad harvest in the year to come. This way the cycle of the year comes to an end, with a promise, of course, of perpetuation! Thik bollam?