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Why more Pakistanis must celebrate Holi, to spread love and peace!

March 27, 2016

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What is Holi, how and why is it celebrated were questions that I had in my mind ever since I was a kid and all that I knew about Holi was from the internet or the Bollywood movies I’ve seen. I being a Pakistani was always fascinated by the idea of Holi, we practically grow up watching Bollywood (Indian) movies where we saw young and old, rich and poor, men and women, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Muslims playing Holi and chasing each other with powdered and water colors. We Pakistanis have always danced to and sang popular Holi songs like, ‘Rang barse bheege chunar wali, rang barse’ & ‘Holi ke din dil khil jaate hain rangon mein rang mil jaate hain’ . It is equally surprising that not many Pakistanis are aware of the fact that festival of Holi has its origins from city of Multan here in Pakistan.

Legend has it that there was an evil King named Hiranyakashipu from Multan who considered himself as God and forced everyone in his realm to worship him. His own son, Prahlad, remain defiant and remained devoted to Lord Vishnu. This enraged the evil king who subjected Prahlad to tormenting abuse and agony, which had no affect on him. The evil king later on requested a wicked witch name Holika to sway Prahlad away from Lord Vishnu, she tricked Prahlad into sitting on a pyre with him. Despite the protected cloak she wored, the evil witch got burned instead of Prahlad. This further enraged the king who smashed a pillar in anger, out from the smashed pillar came Lord Narasimha (avatar of Lord Vishnu) and killed the evil king.

To this day the burning of the bonfire symbolizes the victory of good over evil and the practice of applying color as a celebration of the festivities which followed after the demise of the evil king. Holi isn’t celebrated by all Pakistanis, Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim majority country and Hindus consist only a minor 2.0% of a total country of 180 million. Traditional Muslims believe that celebrating and even participating religious festivals of non Muslims is a ‘Shirk’ that is an unforgivable crime in the eyes of God. To break the taboo surrounding this dogma and support the Pakistani Hindu community, I decided with a bunch of like minded friends to celebrate Holi at the historic Swami Narayan Mandir of Karachi, which is also one of the largest Hindu temple in Karachi.

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Holi is a Hindu festival which is also known as the festival of colors. During the two days of the festival the first day which is known as Holika Dahan devotees gather around at a bonfire (as shown below in the videos) and pray for forgiveness of their sins, moving on to the second day which is known as Rangwali Holi worshipers and people from all walks of life celebrate the festival of colors by playing with powdered and water colors, indulging in traditions sweets and savory foods and even rejuvenating old bonds with friends, families and foes.

To my astonishment the Holi celebrations turned out to be a breathe of fresh air, never had I imagined that the festival of Holi could be held on such a wide scale which contradicts the popular depiction of Pakistan in the Western media as an intolerant society were religious freedom is denied and women are oppressed. And such visuals of Holi celebrations depict a vision of Pakistan foreseen by its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah (quoted below) where he envisioned of a country where everyone is free to go to there mosques, temples and churches; where your religion, caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the state.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah

 

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Such a free and secular Pakistan as envisioned by Jinnah is far from reality now, the Pakistani Hindu community and other minorities are facing constant threat of violence from draconian blasphemy laws, abductions and terrorism attacks. Hindus particularly face the threat of abductions, forced conservation and marriage of their women and girls and even discretion of temples & property with the state seemly remaining unconcerned and silent over such pressing issues.

I participated in the Holi festival despite the objection of a few religious zealots to promote interfaith harmony in Pakistan and spread a message of love and peace across the country and for all my Hindu friends living in India and beyond. I am glad to have been part of a festival that not only celebrated life and all its colors, but which also advocated a message of peace, love and equality for all.

For one day I become part of a community that practiced the true meaning of love and respect for everyone regardless of the minor differences of classes, color, creed or castes that we’ve in the end love for humanity, for peace and happiness are the values that makes us humans. If only we started celebrating these values that makes us humans, only then can we be able to make this world a better place for everyone and for our own selves.

With this message of love, happiness and peace I wish a Happy Holi to all my readers across the world. 🙂

 

Written by

Muhammad Salman Khan

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The author is an environmental and social activist/ blogger based in Karachi. Lover of science, tech and nature he tweets as @ImGreenGuru (twitter.com/ImGreenGuru)

 

More from the Holi celebrations, Happy Holi everyone.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert Shannon permalink
    March 27, 2016 4:48 pm

    So happy you are the future. Not a dress rehearsal. Thank you for paying it forward.

    Adios,

    Robert Shannon

    Like

    • May 7, 2016 7:18 am

      Aww Robert and you’re pure love, stay happy and strong.
      Regards,
      Salman Khan 🙂

      Like

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