Dharavi Koliwada: Public and Political Celebration of Holi
Director: Richa Hushing
Duration: 00:09:28; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 18.342; Saturation: 0.140; Lightness: 0.379; Volume: 0.309; Cuts per Minute: 54.883
Summary: The Holi festival has become the most important social festival in Dharavi Koliwada. In other Koli settlement the festival of Narial Purnima is the most important occasion. During the heavy rain of July-August the fishermen cannot go to the deep sea to fish. Infact the government has put a ban on fishing in the deep sea on those months to avoid casualties. Hence in August-September (Shravan in local calendar) on the full moon day (Purnima) there is a ritual of worshipping the sea god by offering him coconuts (narial). It marks the end of no-fishing season and prays to the sea god to calm down to help to resume fishing. This ritual is entirely livelihood based and no other community or religious group celebrates this festival. But since Dharavi Koliwada has lost their access to water this festival has lost its significance. Instead Holi festival has come to occupy a prime space in their social calendar. It is believed that the Holi festival has reached this height with direct patronage from Shivsena in order to mobilize the community under its fold, much as the same way Tilak started Ganeshotsav to invoke nationalism.
Holi is a popular Hindu spring festival. Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in the later part of February or March. In Dharavi Koliwada the festivity starts 13 days before the full moon day (Poornima) of the spring season and culminates into frenzy on the night before the day of Holi.
The most important mythological significance of Holi is that of Hiranyakashyap (a demon) trying to kill his son, Prahlad. Though born in the family of demons Prahlad was a devotee of Vishnu and that had angered his father. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashyap, Prahlad continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He ordered young Prahlad to sit on the lap of his sister. Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. Prahlad readily accepted his father's orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, the shawl flew from Holika, who then was burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed, after the shawl moved to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi, where Holika represents evil. This ritual takes place on the night before the day of playing with colour. Another interpretation of the ritual is that it is to welcome the arrival of spring. So the burning ritual is actually to get rid of dry leaves and twigs of the winter. The play of colour in the next morning is to nurture and celebrate new lives/renewed nature, with the arrival of spring. However this ritual has nothing to do with the livelihood practice of the Kolis.
The Holi bonfire is burned at the precious Koliwada ground between 10 PM to midnight. This is the precious open ground for the entire area. The ground to belong to the Koli Jamaat, the association. The ground houses various sports activities, political rallies and social functions.
Though it is mainly a Koli event large numbers of other people from the entire area participate in the festivity. The excessive light decoration, massive arrangement and large crowd in make it a very special spectacle. The bonfire signifying Holika demoness is made of bamboo sticks. The men from Koli community circle (pradakshin) the structure with bamboo sticks and women offer puja with flowers. Then the Patil, the village headman, ceremonially lights the structure. After that the male members of every Koli households adds fire to the Holika structure with their bamboo sticks. As the huge structure burns awe inspiring spectacle gets created. In the large crowd of people Kolis can be recognized easily by their festival clothing. The women wear silk sarees with heavy gold jewelry and intricate flower decoration on hair. It is a Characteristic of the Koli women that often the whole neighbourhood or the sub caste wear similar sarees for a social gathering and make a spectacle. Even in this clip we can see a dozen women adorned in yellow silk saree. This is one of the rare occasions when the Koli men collectively wear their traditional dress of draping loongi with the caste symbol, yellow shirt and a simple head gear.
festival of colour
Somewhere in the neighbourhood some children approach a white man to play with colour. The white man is one of the hordes of foreign researchers who are studying the contemporary exotica called Dharavi and attempting to theories the phenomena. This particular man is part of an endevour called Urban Typhoon with the mission of developing a Creative Design Alternative for the Koliwada.
festival of colour
Holi has become the prime festival of kolis of Dharavi. Their traditional festivals are related more to their livelihood practices. Like Narial Poornima and khambadev, these festivals are centered on the protection of the villages, safety in the sea, better fishing. But since much of the livelihood practices have themselves changed, so have the traditions. Holi a festival welcoming spring, is celebrated at the large scale in Dharavi, many believe that Dharavi koliwada's holi is the biggest holi among all the koliwadas in Maharashtra. Holi is celebrated for 13 days in Dharavi, with burning holika on all the 12 nights, the biggest holika is the one of the last day 13th day.
Kolis offer puranpoli (Indian sweet bread stuffed with jaggery) and coconut to the holika. This whole ceremony is an exclusive koliwada festival, where other communities are welcome to witness the holika, but only kolis actively participate. Women also circle around the holy fire praying with matkas (earthen pot) on their head.
Koli community is known for their free spirit, groups of men and women immerse themselves into dancing. They are known for their distinctive songs and dance, for holi also they have many songs and dances which are performed in evenings on all these 13 days of celebration.
festival of colour
The Next morning. Second day of holi is called as Dulhendi. It involves throwing and applying of colored water and powders on friends and family, which gives holi its common name "Festival of Colors." This ritual is said to be based on the story of Krishna and Radha as well as on Krishna's playful splashing of the maids with water, but most of all it celebrates the coming of spring with all its beautiful colors and vibrant life. Holi is a festival of radiance in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colours that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.
Holi is a very notorious festival, during this day no one cares about behaving and following the social restrictions. The fun is in catching a person unaware and flooding them in colours and water. Friends and neighbours drag out the shy men and women from their houses to participate in the community celebration.
festival of colour
Principal ingredients of celebration are Abeer and Gulal, in all possible colours. Next comes squirting of coloured water using pichkaris. Traditionally coloured water is prepared using Tesu flowers, which are first gathered from the trees, dried in the sun, and then ground up, and later mixed with water to produce orange-yellow coloured water. Though the festival really begins many days in advance, with 'Holi Milan' or Baithaks, where song related to the festival, and the epic love story of Radha Krishna are sung; specially folk songs, known as "Hori". The Baithak even turn into event of churning bhang to make intoxicating milk shakes, which are consumed on the second day.
The free spirit, pranks, bhang and music all take the celebration to a higher level. This celebration goes on till 2 or 3 in the afternoon, after which people retire to their homes for an elaborate bath and sleep.
festival of colour
intoxicating milk shake
Holi festival is a chance to renew love, to recharge energy. An atmosphere of oneness prevails during this colourful festival. Everyone is out of their homes celebrating with the community.
This is also a very good chance for the political parties to make their presence felt by putting up banners wishing people and donating money for the celebration. Holi being a major hindu festival, Shivsena, the hindu right-wing political party does not want to miss the chance of pleasing its vote bank. Dharavi has a major population of hindu original inhabitants, thus a party like Shivsena has a huge stand in Dharavi and they are involved in all the celebrations of the communities.
festival of colours
vote bank politics