Wishing You a Bright, Colorful Holi – Wherever You Are!

Yesterday, the day before the Hindu festival of Holi, wherein colors are tossed about like confetti to symbolize, some say, the power of faith over death, color photos of the Eos Chaos region of Mars were sent back to Earth by by Mangalyaan – India’s first spacecraft to Mars.

I’ve always liked the idea of a frenzied, joyful, color-rich holiday that’s practically got my name stamped on it. But the usual story casts Holika as a female demon who schemes with her selfish brother to kill his own son, simply because the son refuses to worship his father as a god. As a fable of the triumph of faith and miracles performed by gods on behalf of the faithful, it’s fine – but as an author and a woman who is tired of seeing women continually paying the price for myths invented by men, I prefer the version that portrays Holika as a loving aunt who wraps her nephew in her own cloak of protection and burns in the fire in his place. Perhaps she didn’t want to be manipulated by her brother, anymore, and played her part in thwarting the father while protecting the son.


I feel the same way about the Garden of Eden story. If we accept it at face value, why aren’t men ashamed of being weak-willed creatures who couldn’t protect or lead by example? Instead, they would focus on punishing the temptress who stupidly or cunningly cast her lot with the devil himself. I’d rather see the whole story as a “coming of age” story, wherein both men and women move from the wholly innocent and protected state of childhood into full adulthood, with greater knowledge and open eyes, but also with newfound risks, responsibilities, and consequences inherent in having earned or demanded “free will.” Just as a parent reluctantly – but also proudly – lets go of the reins and watches the child become an adult, so does the creator of Adam and Eve – even if it means that they will now suffer pain and maybe die as a result of their poor choices.

We all make choices. Are our religious fables a crutch on which to lean and an excuse to blame God or others for our flaws? Or are they cautionary tales that warn us there are always consequences to the choices that we make? At least, in the story of Holika, there is a choice among choices – either Holi is an evil demoness in thrall to her cruel and faithless brother who has put himself ahead of all creation, or a loving aunt who uses her one special gift – a cloak that would save her from the fire – to protect her nephew, instead. I think that which interpretation we choose to believe, and why, says something about us.

There is another interpretation of Holi that makes sense to me: “Holi is an experience of living in harmony with the existence. It is being in the Spirit of existence itself. When you are One with the existence, nothing harms you.” If this is so, then Holi was not consumed with the flames – and knew that she wouldn’t be. She lives on in the colors of the universe, itself.


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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6 thoughts on “Wishing You a Bright, Colorful Holi – Wherever You Are!”

    1. They were probably written that way to start with, but people will always change them to suit their purposes.

      Did you know that Cinderella was not really a complete idiot prancing around in glass slippers? No, she was a sensible maiden wearing slippers lined in FUR. Vair, verre – things are sometimes merely misheard, or misunderstood. Not always deliberately so. But anyone who played the “Telephone Game” as a child should take old myths, legends, and even holy scriptures with a grain of salt, and listen to what the spirit within whispers.

  1. 1. “Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”
    ~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

    2. “Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function,… realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery….The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned – showing you what shape the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through…. The third function is the sociological one – supporting and validating a certain social order…. It is the sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world – and it is out of date…. But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to – and that is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances.”
    ― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
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    1. All excellent points. “It is the sociological function of myth that has taken over in our world – and it is out of date.” It is the folks who wouldn’t understand what “metaphor” was if rosy-fingered Dawn, herself, crept up and swatted them on the nose with a little cat paw that are the problem. Our fiction is often much more honest and human than our non-fiction; we will say, in myth and metaphor the things we dare not say out loud, for real, to each other. And that’s why writers are so often seen as “dangerous.” Words still do have power.

  2. Great Blog on Holi, Holly. That sounds similar! Holi is a great festival, it is a leveller and ends all disparities. Thank you for the post. Yours is a wonderful site.

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