How castiest readings of Holi trivializes the festival
I must confess that with the current climate of distinct Hindu hatred, my expectations of peacefully celebrating my festivals were misplaced. This year, with a charged electoral climate, a decisive mandate and favourable wins in uncharted regions have had its impact upon the Hindus with some civilisational consciousness. As one of the last remaining pagan religions of the world, celebrations and public display of culture form the very fundamental backbone of the Hindu psyche. What, Western scholars of Classical Literature read as a part of their analysis of paganism, thrives in Bhārata as a living and continuous tradition.
The slow retreat of such traditions into private spaces is a reaction of the traditional Hindus who have been subject to repeated ridicule, threats, and curbs in ritual. Some festivals still remain in the public sphere like Diwali and Holi, which have been celebrated for centuries, if not more. Ancient paintings and sculptures depicting Lord Krishna and the Gopis playing with water and coloured powders can still be viewed. This understandably irks the Cultural Marxist cabal in their university cubbyholes. Marxism, which boils down to dividing the society into warring factions or classes, detests cultural gatherings, which defy this set narrative.
Their loud cries throughout the years have clamped many celebrations, shrinking their relevance, up until a few years ago. When using unsound arguments of environmental damage proved to be a failure, they went back to the proven tactic of caste based division. A recent article titled “Reading Caste in Holi: The Burning of Holika, A Bahujan Woman” published in a feminist website seeks to bring in such a divide in a time of celebration. While the article is riddled with errors, it is imperative for the Hindu mind to understand how the opposition thinks and works. I will go into it in a detailed manner so as to not avoid the nuances of this castiest reading.
The author claims to be from the middle class with an urban background, and is rather emphatic in her distaste for the festival. Of course as an individual it is her prerogative whether she participates in it or not, but her exact words are, “it is not a festival worth celebrating.” This phrase passes a value judgement on a festival, which millions celebrate with passion and joy. This caught my eye, and I decided to give it a thorough reading. She goes on to reminisce about the ritualistic aspect that precedes the festival and comes to the point of her fixation: Holika Dahan. Before this, she provides a background to her initial reluctance in celebrating Holi:
“In spite of all this rosiness, I opposed Holi. My opposition to Holi and Rang Panchami, back then, was couched in a cushy concern for the environment. Burn down trees? Generate toxic fumes? Waste water? No thanks, I am educated, I used to think.”
It is not just Holi that suffers such malicious attacks of fake environmental concerns. Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri, Shivaratri – each one of these festivals is targeted by a specific narrative. While Holi is ridiculed, La Tomatina is cheered; while Diwali is denounced, New Year’s Eve is celebrated. If criticisms came from a place of genuine concern, it is not as if Hindus would summarily dismiss them. After all, Hinduism maintains an essential connect with the surroundings, a principle of ecological harmony has been embedded into it long before it became the buzzword of the Left. To think that the act of Hindus celebrating their own festivals with pomp somehow reflects on their education reeks of the arrogance that ivory tower elites usually display.
The article moves on from this, as there is a perceptible recognition that the reasons that have been cited weren’t sufficient. It lands into the ideology with which the author claims to have the most affinity towards: Feminism. This disclaimer enables us to view the critique using that lens in particular, however as we move forward, the Leftist and castiest views begin to predominate, which we shall see.
“Armed with this lens, Rang Panchami then became to me another legitimated patriarchal vehicle to violate my bodily integrity as a woman. The forced water, colours and balloons made me see how my body was considered a free-for-all source of entertainment for men.”
The above statement makes me wonder if the author ever celebrated Rang Panchami at all. Ask anyone about what happens during the revelries, their answer would be along similar lines in saying that it involves spraying water at each other using Pichkaaris, balloons, throwing coloured Gulal powders, music, group dances, and so on. I have celebrated Holi for as long as I can remember, and it involves equal participation of men, women, family, friends, even old enmities are buried. All manner of lewd behaviour is discouraged because celebrations are usually within close knit communities that look out for each other. The views above suggest that there is a distinct lack of awareness regarding the festival, as anyone who celebrates would know that water balloons and colours are used boisterously. Of course, with a deracinated urban culture; one often loses the sense of kinship and community, which sees this as innocent celebration; and instead, infuses into it an element of suspicion and malice, or for the sake of balance a sense of lecherousness.
After this point we encounter a struggle to fit this hatred and bias towards the festival in a language couched in academic jargon. The succeeding paragraphs clearly mention that even though there were “apparatuses” available, there was still a struggle to locate that singular focal point of criticism that would have justified the bias in politically correct terms. Such a term is then introduced, the term that salvages the situation: Caste. This is the all-encompassing go to for anyone with anything to criticise about Hinduism. This, seems to be a last refuge and brought to her after a struggle, despite being a Bahujan woman. A point that raises a red flag. If, as she says, she acquired the apparatus of caste into her thought process later, despite her own identity, this can, in clear terms be labeled as a product of indoctrination. If the critique did not spring naturally with this apparatus to bolster it, then she must have “learnt” it.
Moving on, we come across a link to another article, which is considered the primary source material, containing notes about how Holi is a manifestation of caste prejudice given legitimacy by Brahminical texts. The factual inaccuracies that cover this source are beyond the scope of this article, however the main points are dealt with subsequently. One point boldly stands out, the claim that Holi is premised around “Bahujan Burning.” A concept unheard of by those who celebrate it. Many Hindus, who have heard the stories from their elders simply know it as the burning of Holika. The claim ends with the following line: “the one constant, is that it was a part of Narasimha’s scheme to save Prahlad’s life.” I have taken the liberty to highlight the word which stood out to me. Words fail me when I read that the act of God saving a child from death can be considered a scheme. This reversal of values comes as a shock, not a single justification can be provided for attempting to murder a child, whether political or otherwise.
“Narasimha is considered an avatar of Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu’s son Prahlad had recognized the one true God in Narasimha and had gained popularity as his ardent devotee. This did not go down well with the asura king Hiranyakashyapu, who obsessively plotted his own son’s murder. One such foiled attempt was when he sent his sister Holika for the hitjob, who decided to use a special blanket to protect herself from the fire while she made Prahlad sit with her in a lit pyre. Prahlad’s prayers to Narasimha ensured that he was unharmed while Holika burnt.”
Narasimha is a Lila Avatara of Lord Vishnu, now what is that? A lila avatara is a direct descent of the Lord into the physical realm to enact a certain Lila or sport. This may include the elimination of a particular menace at that moment, testing the bhakti of a devotee, etc. This means that Narasimha did not have a prior appearance before this episode for Prahlada to have recognised Him as the “one true God.” We can dismiss this as the author’s ignorance, however, it is this very ignorance that spurred her to articulate her piece. A note to the author, Hinduism does not entertain the notion of “one true God.” Furthermore, there’s a line which says that it did not go down well with Hiranyakashipu, which would be a huge understatement! This is what the Srimad Bhagavatam has to say: “śrī-hiraṇyakaśipur uvāca: he durvinīta mandātman kula-bheda-karādhama stabdhaṁ mac-chāsanodvṛttaṁ neṣye tvādya yama-kṣayam” (SB 7.8.5). This translates as, “Hiraṇyakaśipu said: O most impudent, most unintelligent disruptor of the family, O lowest of mankind, you have violated my power to rule you, and therefore you are an obstinate fool. Today I shall send you to the place of Yamarāja.” Sending your own child to the God of Death is a violent tendency, certainly not laudable, regardless of your background.
“What we celebrate is this burning of Holika. A Bahujan woman.”
This is pure, unadulterated fabrication. In the 3rd Canto, 14th Chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam we find the details of the conception of Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu (which the author wrongly writes as Hiranyakashyapu). The Asuras, are born to the Rishi Kashyapa and his wife Diti, who in turn is the daughter of the Prajapati Daksha (this is the case for most Asuras, who were born from a womb). Many Brahmins trace their Gotra to Kashyapa. So, by no means can his direct progeny be established as Bahujan. Holika, being the sister of these two Asuras, by logic cannot be a “Bahujan woman.” Let us take the premise that she is Bahujan, does this mean that we can then condone the killing of a child, that too a Bahujan child? Is the zeal to tarnish a religion so strong that grave sins are washed away to feign victimhood? There are no answers.
The author perpetuates the obsolete Racial Theory of Caste, which says that a foreign race invaded India and established itself as the Brahmin caste. This theory is flawed to the point of hilarity, because the theory of an invasion has come under severe scrutiny and new evidences suggest the reverse movement of the Aryans. Also, the Brahmins are not a race, but a Varna or occupational category who emerged from within the populace. Peddling such an outdated and clearly faulty theory shows that there are sinister intentions.
The source of this subversive design comes from the yet another article found on the internet. Particularly, this quote is mentioned, “One cannot consider it as stupidity or lack of awareness when a group of Dalit, Adivasi, and Bahujan students (along with some Christian, Muslim, Atheists etc.) attempt to project the Asura-Dravidian cultural and identity symbols, along with declaring their pride in being Asura.” Thus commences this farcical narrative of a concocted unity among Dalit/Adivasis and Christian/Muslim. One needs no great introduction to the finer viewpoints of Monotheistic Religions, their views towards pagan religions and their subversion of native practices, to come to the conclusion that the fabricated caste angle is just to facilitate the entry of an inimical ideology. A general reading of the fall of Rome and the Islamic conquest of India is sufficient to reveal the tactics employed to eliminate native religions. A simple question I would like to ask these caste narrative peddlers who pretend to be concerned about preserving the stories of the “majority” is this: The tribal religions and practices that survived for millennia within a Hindu India, where are they today? What happened to them? I hope they are able to honestly answer this question before such lofty words as “So if there is one thing you set fire to this Holi, let it be the structures that thrive on one version of culture being all-pervasive. Structures and stories that do not allow a vast majority to make sense of their lives,” are uttered.
Before one tries to subvert the pristine Dharma, before one voices their fake concern for ordinary woman who play Holi, before one incites a generation of hatred towards a community, one must introspect whether they or their community were barred from saying their stories, or whether they were given their own organic space to thrive and organise. There are many genuine queries to which answers are needed, else like the sepoys of old, we too become a coolie for an ideology to subvert native interests.