HAPPY HOLI

"Happy Holi"

PHALGUNI POORNIMA – FEBRUARY 28, 2010

The full moon festival of Holi, without any special religious observances like fasting or worship, heralds the Vasanta-ritu, the spring season.

Four main reasons are attributed to this festival.

1.      It was on this day that Lord Shiva opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva to ashes.  Very few people worship Kamadeva by keeping an image of him in the square yard of their houses.

2.      But, the name of the festival is derived from the word “Holika”, the name of the sister of the demon king Hiranyakasipu, who tried to kill Prahlada.  Holika sat on a pyre of wood which was set to fire along with Prahlada.  The divine will reduced her to ashes while Prahlada came out unhurt.  To commemorate this event, an image of Holika with Prahlada in her lap is kept on logs of wood.  While Holika’s image is made up of combustible materials, Prahlada’s is made up of non-combustible material ones.  On the night of Phalguna Purnima, the image is set fire.  Burning of images causing smoke, environmentalists say is conducive to the crops as it acts as a powerful insecticide when the cereal crops are ready for harvest.  In the next morning, the Phalguna Krishna pratipad day, the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasada and smeared on the limbs of the body.  Also this day is celebrated with gaiety by throwing on one another gulal-coloured water or coloured powder.

3.      In Mathura and Vrindavan areas, the festival is for three days .The image of Lord Krishna is placed on a swing (popularly called as “dola”).  The swing is rocked 21 times at the end of the festival.  Thus the festival derives the name “Dolyatra”. Barsana, the birth place of Radha and Nandgaon, the village home of Sri Krishna are marked with the play of “lathmar” holi.  Women dressed up with colourful costumes and long ‘ghunghats’ or veils carrying well oiled ‘lathis’ or sticks to beat their male counter parts who protect themselves with ‘dhals’ or gears.  The famous Bankey Bihari temple at Vrindavan and Mathura’s Dwarakadhees temple are fully flooded with the devotees during the festival of colours.

4.      The state of Bengal observes Phalgun Poornima as the birthday of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu(1486-1533 A.D).

For the devotees of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna, the event of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth on this day is the prime reason for its celebration. Born in Nawadwip of Bengal, Mahaprabhu lived for 48 years which is divisible into 3 periods: first 24 years, up to his entering the monastic order; second 6 years of his asceticism spent in pilgrimage and the last 18 years spent in Puri incessantly in his ministry of spiritual trances and rapturous joy. Sri Chaitanya’s plain, simple and practical religion offered a key to solve in a practical way some of the complicated social, political and economic problems that confronted the society in those days. Democracy of spirit based on love for fellow beings improved the conditions of people and conferred on them the joy of living.  The tenets of love, equality and fraternity as taught by Mahaprabhu were found to be the most significant method of integration.

Sri Sri Thakur used to advise his disciples to read the traditional biographies of Mahaprabhu such as “Chaitanya Charitamrita” and “Chaintanya Bhagavata”.  All through his life Sri Ramakrishna showed great respect even to the descendants of the followers of Mahaprabhu.

We find in Gospel, Sri Sri Thakur often emphasizing the efficacy of Mahaprabhu’s teachings as to chanting of Lord’s name.    The following are a few excerpts from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:

1.      “…..Chaitanya and Nitai, after some deliberation, made an arrangement to attract the worldly.  They would say to such persons, ‘Come, repeat the name of Hari, and you shall have a delicious soup of magur fish and the embrace of a young woman.’  Many people, attracted by the fish and the woman, would chant the name of God.  After tasting a little of the nectar of God’s hallowed name, they would soon realize that the ‘fish soup’ really meant the tears they shed for love of God, while the ‘young woman’ signified the earth.  The embrace of the woman meant rolling on the ground in the rapture of divine ecstasy.”

2.      “Chaitanya said: ‘The name of God has very great sanctity.  It may not produce an immediate result, but one day it must bear fruit.  It is like a seed that has been left on the cornice of a building.  After many days, the house crumbles, and the seed falls on the earth, germinates, and at last bears fruit.’ “

3.      “Chaitanya used to shed tears of joy at the very mention of Krishna’s name. . . Chaitanya embraced all, including the pariahs.”

4.      “Chaitanya was intoxicated with the love of God.  Still, before taking to monastic life, for how many days did he try to persuade his mother to give him her permission to become a monk! He said to her: ‘Mother, don’t worry. I shall visit you every now and then.’

We all know the remarkable similarities between Mahaprabhu and Sri Sri Thakur.  Both had extraordinary charisma, were fond of congregational singing of divine songs and attracted large crowds wherever they went. The following are the few instances giving evidence to this fact:

1.      Bhiravi Brahmani was the first to recognize Ramakrishna’s identity with Mahaprabhu.

2.      When Sri Sri Thakur visited Navadvip in the company of Mathur, he had a mystic vision in which he saw two boys of golden complexion racing towards him and merging into his own personality about whom later he told that they were Gaur and Nitai.

3.      On another occasion near Pachavati at Dakshineswar, Sri Sri Thakur had the vision of Mahaprabhu dancing in ecstasy in the company of a group of devotees.  In that group, Ramakrishna found some of his own disciples like Balaram and Mahendra Nath Gupta.

4.      Swami Vivekananda, once while talking to ‘M’  at the Baranagore monastery after the passing away of the Master said, ’But times without number the Master said to me: “In me alone are embodied Advaita, Chaitanya and Nityananda. I am all these three.”

We all know that all divine incarnations are essentially one but their mission differs according to the need of the time. Though there are many such instances, we quote only two of them:

1.      It is true that Mahaprabhu redeemed Jagai and Madhai and embraced people of all status, but it was Ramakrishna who blessed and transformed drunkards like Surendra, actors like Girish, actresses like Vinodini and untouchables like Rasik.

2.      Mahaprabhu served the fellowmen with his tenets,” Name ruci, jive daya and vaisnava-seva”, whereas Ramakrishna transformed the idea of “daya” into “seva” as worship of Lord Shiva Himself and extended that worship  not only to the devotees of the Lord but also to all the living beings on the earth.

I pray to the Lord, who came as Mahaprabhu and again as BhagavanSri Ramakrishna to bless us all on this
auspicious occasion to reach on to His lotus feet.

Swami Nishthatmananda
Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama
Muzaffarpur
Bihar State

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