Holi is an ancient festival of India and was originally known as ‘Holika’. It is said that Holi existed several centuries before Christ. However, the meaning of the festival is believed to have changed over the years. Earlier it was a special rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families and the full moon (Raka) was worshiped. A 16th century Ahmednagar painting is on the theme of Vasanta Ragini – spring song or music. It shows a royal couple sitting on a grand swing, while maidens are playing music and spraying colors with pichkaris.
The literal meaning of the word ‘Holi’ is ‘burning’. However there are various legends to explain the meaning of this word, most prominent of all is the legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyap. Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion.
Legend of Lord Krishna is also associated with playing with colors as the Lord started the tradition of play with colours by applying colour on his beloved Radha and other gopis. Gradually, the play gained popularity with the people and became a tradition. There are also a few other legends associated with the festival – like the legend of Shiva and Kaamadeva and those of Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana. All depict triumph of good over evil – lending a philosophy to the festival.
In the current situation, when most cities in India are facing acute water scarcity, the wasteful use of water during Holi, is also being questioned. It is common for people to douse each other with buckets of water during Holi, and children often resort to throwing water balloons at each other. The idea of a dry Holi seems alien at first, especially as the climate becomes warmer around Holi, and the water provides welcome relief from the heat. However, considering that in some urban areas, citizens can go without water for several days, it seems wasteful to use so much water simply for a celebration.
Some of the popular Holi recipes are Puranpoli, Dahi vade, Gathiya, Thandai etc.
300gms. chana dal (yellow gram)
300 gms. jaggery or sugar
150 gms. wheat flour
1 tsp. cardamom powder
1 tbsp. ghee
Warm water to knead dough
Boil dal in water till soft. Put it in a colander and drain off excess water. Pass through an almond grater little by little till all dal is grated. Mash jaggery till lumps break. Mix well into dal. Put mixture in a heavy saucepan and cook till a soft lump is formed .Stir continuously. Keep aside.
Mix ghee with flour, add enough water to make a soft pliable dough. Take a lemon sized ball of dough, roll into a 4″ round. Place same sized ball of filling in centre, life all round and seal. Reroll carefully to a 6″ diameter round. Roast on warm griddle till golden brown.
Repeat other side.
Take on serving plate. Apply a tsp. of ghee all over top.
Another popular snack to serve during Holi is Gathiya. It’s a gujarati snack and is made of gram flour.
1/2 kg gramflour (Besan)
Salt to taste
1 tsp Ajwain
1/2 tsp Red Chilly Powder
100 gms Oil
1 1/2 tsp Soda Bicarbonate (Cooking Soda)
Oil for frying
Combine the gram flour, ajwain, red chilly powder, cooking soda and salt. Add ghee and mix well. now add some water and make a dough. The dough should be soft and not very firm.
Now heat oil for deep frying. Use a sev machine and fix in the disc with big holes. Put in some dough and press the sev machine into the hot oil. Fry on medium flame till the gathiya turns light golden brown. Fry on both sides. Once done take out and put on a tissue paper to absorb excess oil. Once it cools down, break it into small pieces and store in an air tight container.
Holi celebration is incomplete without this drink called Thandai. This refreshing drink adds energy and a mood for playing Holi. It’s made out of exotic spices, nuts and milk.
1 1/2 litres water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 tbsp almonds
1 tbsp watermelon seeds
1/2 tbsp khuskhus (poppy seeds)
1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp elaichi (cardamom) powder
1/2 tsp rose water (optional)
1 tsp peppercorns, whole
1/4 cup dried or fresh rose petals
1. Soak sugar in half a litre of water. Keep aside.
2. Wash all the dry ingredients, except elaichi.
3. Soak in 2 cups of water. Keep aside. Allow all soaked items to stand for at least two hours.
4. Grind all soaked ingredients to a very fine paste. Use a stone grinder if possible.
5. When the paste is very fine, mix the remaining water.
6. Place a strong muslin strainer over a large, deep vessel. Or tie a strong muslin cloth over the rim of the vessel to strain.
7. Put the paste in this strainer and press with the back of the palms, collecting the liquid into the vessel.
8. Add the remaining water, a little at a time, to make it more liquid.
9. Pour back some of the extract and press once again.
10. Repeat this process till the residue becomes dry and husk-like.
11. Add milk, sugar, elaichi powder and rosewater to the extracted liquid.
12. Boil the milk and then chill for two hours before serving.