Holi: Color Me What?

This post by our Mehmaan is none other than Harinder Singh. About Harinder Singh -he works with the Sikh Research Institute and the Panjab Digital Library to address all things Sikhi and Panjabi. http://twitter.com/1force

I have taken some time off to be Mr. Mom while my wife is on a work assignment in India. In preparing to make the move to Bangalore, I was excited about being in the land of MS Subbulakhsmi (renowned Carnatic vocalist) and Kalmane (locally grown 100% Arabica beans) coffee. Being here for about three weeks, this is what I have discovered: people are nicer than the North, infrastructure is horrible, and there is not much to see in the city. Even Frommers.com couldnt come up a list of not-to-be-missed attractions in Bangalore, though people in India claim it to be a great city. I guess the new IT opulence has brought in pubs and gigs only (it is common for Indians to end almost every sentence with only).

Yesterday, I picked up my son Jodha Singh from the pre-school he is enrolled in here. His teacher said, he wouldnt play Holi (Festival of Colorsthough bastardized; some celebrants today throw sewerage on people as well!). Now, the legend of Holika is vanishing and so too the spirit of post harvesting thanksgiving prayer to the Almighty. Apparently, Jodha was upset when other children were throwing water and colors on him. I told Miss Priya that his aversion may have come because he has not partaken in this festival as the Sikhs of Panjab have a little reason to celebrate. She wasnt sure how to respond; do most Panjabis and Sikhs know how to play Holi?

Guru Arjan Sahib references Holi in the Basant rag within Guru Granth Sahib: “I play Holi / Joining the Infinite Wisdom’s companions / Serving the Inspired / Imbued with deep crimson of the Divine Love.” By the way, those raising the issues of historical dates and use of the Nanakshahi calendar need to take notice that the Guru references Holi in Phagun (a month prior to today). The Guru is all about permanent colors, not temporary phenomenon!

Whether or not you like Babbu Manns film Ekam Son of the Soil, kudus to him for the Holi song. He elaborates on the plight of the Panjabi farmers who have no reason to celebrate the festival of colors: Asi kache rang jahe, sohnie, sadi kahdi holi. He warns of violence as the last resort of the farmer staring down the realities of current Indian policies and practices towards Panjabi farmers; to borrow a phrase from old-school political rap of Public Enemy, My Uzi weighs a ton (not to be taken just literally, but also the influence). Panjabi Sikhs have shown that warning to be well-heeded in the last five centuries. In the academic sphere, Joyce Pettigrew cites agro-economic reasons behind 1984 and this is the other side of the coin which Inderjit Singh Jaijee has been addressing with investigations into farmers suicides according to Mallika Kaur.

Hola Mahalla at Sri Anandpur Sahib used to invoke the collective Carhdi Kala (Spirit Ascendant) while strengthening spirituality internally and preparing to deliver justice externally. Are we going to train ourselves, or just participate in rote rituals of simran (remembrance) and displays of shastars (weapons)? How are we strengthening the Sikhs today?

A Sikh of the Tenth Nanak was inspired to play Holi for he had developed a strong relationship with the Guru. Bhai Nand Lal Goya records: Holi has made lips beautiful like a flower bud. Rose water, amber, musk and saffron water fell like rain on all sides. The scattering of gulal by the Guru turned everything red. The pistons filled with saffron-colored water imparted a lovely tinge to the uncolored. When my King put on the colored neck cloth, both the worlds became happy through his kindness. Do the Sikhs today feel even a glimpse of this?

Guru Nanak Sahib in Asa-ki-Var shares that rang (literally color, but more like Love) causes laughter, tears and silence. I do not worry about what others think except the Force. The question remains are you ready to dip into the rangto be colored in deep crimson and take on what this Divine Love is propelling you toward?

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14 Responses to “Holi: Color Me What?”

  1. P.Singh says:

    I enjoyed the article, and am largely in agreement with the message put forward.

    However, the author appears to disparage the act of simran as mere ritual: (6th paragraph down) "or just participate in rote rituals of simran".

    Against the balance of the article, the author appears to color (no pun intended) simran as superficial or hollow in contrast to the deep and 'true' immersion into the rang/love expressed by the Gurus. Much like the fancy twirling of swords, which looks pretty but is utterly meaningless without knowledge of actual, "true" martial application.

    I disagree with the author's sentiments in this regard; the act, the practice of simran, even rote simran, has value. Doing it mindlessly, as something to be done, like brushing one's teeth, has limited value. Engaging in simran with a mind to immersing oneself into that rang/love is, of course, much more meaningful.

  2. P.Singh says:

    Even the discipline of simran – call it ritual if you must – has the practical benefit of imparting discipline and structure into daily life. Strip away the religious and spiritual aspects of it, the practice of simran still involves the imposition of one's will over one's mind and body, which makes for stronger, tougher, more focused men and women. It's no different than someone who has the will-power to wake up at 5AM, and go for a 3 mile run every day – no matter how she feels, no matter the weather. That discipline transfers over to other areas of life.

    Combine that discipline with a mind open to the Guru's message and a heart full of love, and you have the makings of a saint-soldier. It is no surprise that the jewels of our panth – the Baba Gurbachan Singh Bhindranwales and Bhai Jeevan Singhs – all did and do simran.

  3. Akaut says:

    Harinder bhaji – great article – Yoda Singh great job.

  4. Harjit Singh says:

    I wish grown-ups can learn something from your son Yoda Singh….Bravo Yoda Singh….!!!!

  5. Harinder Singh says:

    Thank you all for your comments and helping me grow.

    P. Singh, I agree with you that simran is inherent part of sikh rahit as visible in the lives of exemplary personalities; in their case, simran molded their characteristics and behavior where for large section of simran-vale, nami Sikhs in today's community it remains merely discipline which is resulting in not being mir-pir simultaneously. Simran and nam are active forces that change our thoughts, emotions, and actions; make us mature in our thoughts and feelings, among other notions.

    Dilpreet, your point is well taken; I stand corrected.

  6. Richmond Hill says:

    Vaheguru ji ka khalsa Vaheguru ji ki fateh!

    I think this is a very good article, but presents many personal opinions that may or may not be accurate. We as a panth need to go back deep within our history and try our best to discern the maryada that was prevalent during the times when our Guru's held their physical bodies.
    The reason I say this , is because the following article on nihangSingh.org uses historical references which present a view which contradicts today's prevailing perspective on "holi"
    The article uses references to show that holi was actually practiced by purattan Singhs.

    It is very difficult to separate truth from opinion these days, and that is one reason why our community is in such turbulence.

    Anyways, here is the article

  7. Jeet Singh says:

    Whatever these idiot and criminal police officers did to this sikh youth should be punished the best way possible but No matter what u write or do…or waste ur time Mr Fakir people like you are brainwashed to an extent that u will never change…i agree that there will be 10 who will listen to u and don't forget that there are 90 who will ignore your typical divide and rule policies……I am a proud sikh and a proud Indian and I love my INDIAN cricket……….If 84 anti sikh massacre was one of the most henious black spot on India(without doubt) then yesterday was one of the best day when SIKHS HINDUS CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIM PLAYERS got together and won the world cup for India…..ups and down are part of life whether its an individual human being or a country……do u think history of UK USA OR ANY other nation for that matter has been bed of roses…no..its hasen't…….In any case we live in a free enviornment and u have right to say what u feel and i have the right to say what i feel…TU meri soch nai badal sakda tey mein TERI soch nai badal sakda…Rab Rakha

  8. JEET SINGH says:


  9. Harinder says:

    Many Sikhs in West live in 1984.
    They think there is an ongoing pogrom against SIKHS in India
    and are ready to believe all anti India propaganda .
    India is a secular country and SIKHS occupy a position of pride in it; not withstanding your unfounded fears.
    If a Turban has been pulled of in India Mohali then also remember that Two SIKHS have also been shot in California and two Sikhs have been beheaded in Pakistan.
    Sikhs story is and shall always read like this.
    So be happy and

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