I think it's safe to say that I miss India most of all around about this time of year (and perhaps early Autumn too... and during the monsoon... OH alright, I miss it all year round, okay); it's like an itch that can't be reached - I long to be there but with pending exams year in year out, it's impossible to get away. With the Easter Weekend
now within a few hours reach officially kicked off (technical difficulties getting the post online this morning) it's difficult not to notice how subdued festivities are here - bar Christmas, of course - as compared to the pomp and vigour of celebration in India, be it Diwali, Navrarti, the birthday of Krishna, the kite flying festival or Holi.
Holi heralds the beginning of spring and is usually celebrated around about the same time as Easter - it's a complete national holiday just like our bank holiday, so a full 4-5 days of food, family, friends, noise and vibrancy. It's without a shadow of a doubt the boldest, brightest, most colourful 'let your hair down' festival on the calendar, when it's okay even to drink bhang (a naughty cannabis-laced concoction) and throw colour in strangers' faces.
A Hindu festival originally, there are actually very few religious duties to fulfil on the day of Holi. Historically though there is a story of good defeating evil underpinning the celebration - one legend has it that there was once a king called Hiranyakashyap who demanded that all of his subjects worship him as God. Hiranyakashyap's own son Prahlad, however, was a devotee of Vishnu and inspite of several threats from his father, Prahlad continued praying to Vishnu. Hiranyakashap tried to poison his son but the poison is believed to have turned to nectar in his mouth. Prahlad was trampled by elephants, put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes yet each one of Hiranyakashyap's attempts failed. Finally, he ordered Prahlad to sit on a pyre in Holika's lap, the King's demoness sister, who had immunity to fire. When the fire started, everyone watched as Holika burnt to death, while Prahlad, praying to Vishnu, escaped unscathed. A huge bonfire is lit the night before to commemorate the salvation of Prahlad and the following day is when this victory is celebrated and the true fun ensues. Fun à la India ;)
The doomy, gloomy, dull, grey, snowy rainy scene here does seem that much more depressing as compared, doesn't it? :(