FESTIVALS : We bet you didnít know this about Holi

Does the headline evoke a picture of sensuousness, arrows of love and people in love? Well, thatís not what weíre talking about. While the festival of Holi is dedicated to the divine love of Radha Krishna, in the South, it is variously called Kamotsav, Kamavilas, Kaman-Dahnam or Madanotsav. The festival honors the supreme sacrifice Kamdevmade for the greater good of the universe.

The story goes that when Sati immolated herself in her fatherís sacrificial fire, Shiva got very upset. After having wrecked the whole yagna area and more, he ultimately calmed down, but decided to stay away from all worldly affairs and went into deep meditation. Sati was reborn in the house of Himalaya as Parvati. A Shiva devotee from childhood itself, she devoted herself to serving the Lord. He was however oblivious to her and the Gods were worried as the balance of the world was swaying precariously, and the only solution was a union between Shiva and Parvati. It was then that Indra ordered his friend, Kamdev, the God of love and passion, to help her win over Shiva.

Knowing fully well the extent of Shivaís anger, Kamdev still decided to take the risk andcreated an illusion of spring so strong that all living creatures were affected by it. He then shot a love arrow at Shivaís heart with the intention of making him fall in love with Parvati. Shiva did awaken, but it was his third eye that first looked at Kamdev and burnt him to ashes with his anger. Later, of course, he realized his mistake and on Parvatiís insistence, gave Kamdev immortality in the invisible form. Many consider this a huge sacrifice by Kamdev and burn a bonfire a day before Holi to commemorate his incineration at Shivaís hands. People offer the cooling paste of sandalwood to Kamdev on Holi to reduce the sting from his burns. Mango blossoms are also offered as he is said to be very fond of their intoxicating fragrance. Songs dedicated to his wife Ratiís sorrow and her pain of separation are sung in front of the bonfire.

Another school of thought says that Holika burning is symbolic of Shiva telling the world to burn all worldly sins like greed, lust, attachment and intoxication. The burning of Kamdev is supposed to signify the end of all base thoughts. The message is to celebrate the colors of spring, rejoice in them, but not lose control over oneís senses and reasoning capabilities.

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