CELEBRATING HOLI

ਹੋਲੀ ਕੀਨੀ ਸੰਤ ਸੇਵ ॥: Holee keenee Sant sev:
(I) Celebrate (the festival of) Holi
by serving Sant (sggs 1180).
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To deepen our understanding and thus to deepen our Spiritual living, the SGGS (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) has used many examples and similes including seasons, festivals, and so on. For example:

  • ਬਨਸਪਤਿ ਮਉਲੀ ਚੜਿਆ ਬਸੰਤੁ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਮਉਲਿਆ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੂ ਸੰਗਿ ॥: Banasapat moulee charriaa basant. Ihu manu mouliaa satguru sang: (As when ) the spring comes, all the plants blossom forth. (Similarly) this mind blossoms forth (when we are), in association with the Satguru (sggs 1176).
  • ਸਾਵਣੁ ਆਇਆ ਝਿਮਝਿਮਾ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇ ॥: Saavan aaiaa jhimajhimaa har gurmukh naam dhiaai: By becoming a Gurmukh, the one who meditates on the Lord's Name, (for him, it's like) coming of the rainy season (Saawan) with steady downpour (sggs 1250).

Similarly, there is also the mention of the festival of "Holi" in the SGGS. The purpose of this Reflection is not to get into the history, popularity or rituals associated with the festival of Holi, but, from a spiritual standpoint, try to reflect upon as to how the SGGS would like us to celebrate it.

HOLI - ਹੋਲੀ

India being the ancient country, it has many festivals. Some of these festivals are very ancient and also extremely popular. Holi (pronounced Holee ), is one of them. It is also known as the festival of colors. Celebrated on the full moon day of Phaagun (or Phaggan), it is particularly more popular in north India. People from all walks of life — irrespective of religion, caste, age, and gender — celebrate Holi. It is spring time in India, flowers and fields are in bloom and the people go wild running on the streets and smearing each other with paint and throwing powered colors (Gulaal, etc.), colored water and dye around in an atmosphere of great good humor and exuberance, with dancing and singing. Also, bonfires are lit during Holi in a prominent public places. Plenty of Bhang (cannabis/intoxicant) taking in various ways also goes on this day! For example, a special drink is prepared called Thandai which can be laced with Bhang, which actually contains small amounts of marijuana. People invite each other to their houses for Thandai, feasts and celebrations. There are many stories and folklore associated with the festival of Holi. Known originally as "Holika", it has been mentioned in very early religious works. It is also known as Holikotsava.

Based on these, in nutshell, the festival of Holi essentially signifies to reaffirm togetherness and the burning (or eradication) of the evil passions: lust, anger etc., and their numerous variations such as selfishness, hatred, enviousness, animosity, and all rest of the negative tendencies and actions, and the victory of righteous forces over demonic forces. Apparently, Holi has lost its original significance over the years long ago.

HOLAA MAHALLAA - ਹੋਲਾ ਮਹੱਲਾ

In lieu of the traditional Holi, it is said that Guru Gobind Singh Jee (the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs) revived the spirit of Holi and weaved its essence into a festival called "Holaa Mahallaa", this annual festival of Sikhs was created by Guru Gobind Singh Jee in his own way. At the time Guru Gobind Singh Jee introduced it, he was battling the Mughal empire and the hill kings. On this day, he held a military parade of the Sikhs, who came out in their best and went through a sort of mock battle at the historic township of Anandpur Sahib. It was to remind the people of togetherness, brotherhood, valor and defense preparedness. Hola is the masculine form of the feminine Holi. Holaa Mahallaa usually falls in March (spring season in India) a day after Holi. Although, initially, Anandpur Sahib played host to Holaa Mahallaa, now it is also replicated at other Gurdawara worldwide.

The author is not a historian. Therefore, instead of quoting hearsay or somebody else's accounts, the following eyewitness accounts of this festival at Anandpur Sahib are based on the author's own visits to Holaa Mahallaa in his childhood, around 1950s-1960s.

  • The festivity was observed in the entire foothills of the Shivaliks mountain, especially around the historic townships of Anandpur Sahib and Kiratpur Sahib. The author remembers first visiting Kiratpur Sahib, staying their overnight in the open ground with members of his group, and then proceeding to Anandpur Sahib the next day.
  • Visitors camped out, either in tents or out in the open ground at Anandpur Sahib too. There were thousands and thousands of people there, a real buzz.
  • There were always long lines to enter any Gurdawara or historic place. Because of the long lines and huge crowds, the author remembers people just pushing each others and throwing money towards the SGGS from a distance (Mathaa Tekanaa)!
  • The festival at Anandpur Sahib lasted a few days: at least 3-4 days.
  • There were numerous Diwaans carrying out continuous Kirtan, Kavee Darbaars (symposia of poetry) , Dhaadee Jathaas, lectures, discourses etc.; and Langars (free kitchen) everywhere.
  • Although this is forbidden in Sikhi, the author vividly remembers Nihangs preparing Bhang, or cannabis. During one of the visits to Holaa Mahallaa, the author remembers staying in a tent next to the Deraa of Nihangs, Shaheedi Baag, across from Quilaa Anandgarh. They used giant and heavy Ghotanaas (pestles) and Koondaas (pestle-pot or mortar) to grind and thoroughly crush the Bhang (Sukhaa or Sukhnidhaan), and humongous cauldrons used to prepare it. As a small child fascinated by the huge size of their pestles, mortars and cauldrons, the author remembers watching them grinding hemp for hours.
  • In the final day, a long procession was organized in the form of army type column. The author does not remember the exact route of the procession, but he does remember lots of activities near the rivulet (Charan Ganga) below the Takhat Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats of Sikhs.
  • The Nihang Singhs (members of the Sikh army that was founded by Guru Gobind Singh Jee) carried on mock battles and displays of swordsmanship, horsemanship, weaponry, martial skills and attire. They performed daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters), bareback horse-riding and standing erect on two speeding horses, archery, and various other feats of bravery.
  • At the final stage of the procession, the author vaguely remembers visitors talking about symbolic shoe-beating of Massa Rangarh (if we recall: Massa Rangarh was appointed in charge of Harmandir Sahib, in Amritsar, after the Harmandir Sahib premises were captured by the Mughal forces. While in charge of Harmandir Sahib, Massa Rangarh behaved in a most evil and offensive manner, hurting religious sentiments of Sikhs. He used the Parkarmaa (the area surrounding the Sarovar - the pool tank) as a stable for his horses and used the main Darbaar Sahib as dancing room, where prostitutes entertained him and his guests who would be smoking Hukka (tobacco) while watching the prostitutes entertain them. Around the building and premises he had posted armed guards to prevent the entry of anyone without permission. Finally he was finished by Bhai Sukha Singh Bhai Mehtab Singh.

FROM THE SPIRITUAL STANDPOINT, THE SGGS ON CELEBRATING HOLI

From spiritual standpoint, the SGGS tells us as to how one can go about celebrating Holi. That is, by serving Sant. Now the question is: how one can go about serving Sant? By washing their clothes? By feeding them with delicacies? By chauffeuring them around in fancy cars or flying them first-class? By building them Ashrams? By donating them money, expensive cars, planes or land? By following them blindly? By massaging their feet? By touching physical feet? None of these — according to the SGGS.

Then how is one to serve Sant (God's true Companion, Satsang, Saadh-Sangat, etc.)? As indicated in the SGGS, one is to serve Sant by the Divine Name (Naam) — ਹੋਲੀ ਕੀਨੀ ਸੰਤ ਸੇਵ. Here is the the rest of the Gur-Shabad.

  • ਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵਉ ਕਰਿ ਨਮਸਕਾਰ ॥ ਆਜੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਮੰਗਲਚਾਰ ॥ ਆਜੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਮਹਾ ਅਨੰਦ ॥ ਚਿੰਤ ਲਥੀ ਭੇਟੇ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ॥੧॥ ਆਜੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਗ੍ਰਿਹਿ ਬਸੰਤ ॥ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਏ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੁਮ੍‍ ਬੇਅੰਤ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਆਜੁ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਬਨੇ ਫਾਗ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਸੰਗੀ ਮਿਲਿ ਖੇਲਨ ਲਾਗ ॥ ਹੋਲੀ ਕੀਨੀ ਸੰਤ ਸੇਵ ॥ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਅਤਿ ਲਾਲ ਦੇਵ ॥੨॥ ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਮਉਲਿਓ ਅਤਿ ਅਨੂਪ ॥ ਸੂਕੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਛਾਵ ਧੂਪ ॥ ਸਗਲੀ ਰੂਤੀ ਹਰਿਆ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਸਦ ਬਸੰਤ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲੇ ਦੇਵ ॥੩॥ ਬਿਰਖੁ ਜਮਿਓ ਹੈ ਪਾਰਜਾਤ ॥ ਫੂਲ ਲਗੇ ਫਲ ਰਤਨ ਭਾਂਤਿ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਿ ਅਘਾਨੇ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣਹ ਗਾਇ ॥ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਧਿਆਇ ॥੪॥੧॥: Gur sevo kar namasakaar...: (Through singing His praises) I have met Gobind (God). All my worries are dispelled. Now I am in Supreme Bliss, and in happiness. (This is all because of the Guru, therefore, I) humbly bow to the Guru and serve Him. ||1|| O Lord, I sing Your Glorious Praises. (As a result) my inner house is in spring (of the Aatamic Anand) ||1||Pause|| (Because of the singing of His praises) I feel like Phalgun (Holi) within me. Joining with God's companions (Saadh-Sangat), I have begun to play (this Holi). (I) celebrate (the festival of) Holi by serving Sant. (As a consequence of Saadh-Sangat) I am imbued with the deep crimson color of the Lord's Divine Love. ||2|| (Because of the singing of His praises) my mind and body have blossomed forth, in utter, incomparable Beauty. (From my body and mind, this Aatamic Anand) does not dry out in either in sunshine (i.e., Sukha or good times) or in shade (i.e. Dukha or bad times). They always flourish (in Aatamic Anand). I have met with the Divine Guru. ||3|| (Because of the singing of His praises, it's as) the wish-fulfilling Elysian Tree has sprouted and grown (within me). It bears precious flowers and fruits of all sorts. Says Nanak, mediate on the Lord's Name. Singing the Lord's praises, (one becomes) satisfied and fulfilled ||4||1|| (sggs1180).
  • ਸੰਤਾ ਕੀ ਹੋਇ ਦਾਸਰੀ ਏਹੁ ਅਚਾਰਾ ਸਿਖੁ ਰੀ ॥ ਸਗਲ ਗੁਣਾ ਗੁਣ ਊਤਮੋ ਭਰਤਾ ਦੂਰਿ ਨ ਪਿਖੁ ਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਸੁੰਦਰਿ ਆਪਣਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਮਜੀਠੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਰੀ ॥ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਸਿਆਣਪ ਚਾਤੁਰੀ ਤੂੰ ਜਾਣੁ ਗੁਪਾਲਹਿ ਸੰਗਿ ਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Santaa kee hoi daasaree ehu achaaraa sikhu ree ... (sggs 400).

Cultivating or Realizing the Sant-Association is indicated to exalt one.

A WORD ON THE WORD "SANT"/"SAINT

Sant is a "Daas" (ਦਾਸ) or "Jan" (ਜਨ) of the Gurbani. In nutshell, the Gurbani's Sant is at the level of Aatmaa (Soul), not at the level of physical body or robes (Bhekh-ਭੇਖ). In other words, one cannot become a Sant by wearing a robe (Bhekh-ਭੇਖ), or by calling himself a Sant, or having his deluded or stupid followers calling him a Sant!

More: "Sant and Asant"

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org