With Holi around the corner, the whole country of India is looking to go indulge in the vibrant hues of a festival that is unlike anything encountered in any part of the world. The Festival Of Colors, Holi though has come to see greater expression across the globe in its rather vivid and frenzied mode of celebrating life itself. However, it isn’t just the merrymaking that characterise the Holi festivities that are also deep rooted in our tradition and heritage. A cultural festival that has evolved from its origins as an ancient Hindu celebration, Holi today is one of the biggest of Indian festivals, religious or otherwise. And with good reasons as well. Despite the element of the divine permeating through its celebratory folds that means also a number of legends being associated with the festival, Holi isn’t just about fanfare. There have been valid basis behind the celebration of this festival with all the hues of the world, with scientific as well as holistic benefits pertaining to every aspect of it. From legends and traditions to the food and the colours, not to miss the fun and revelry, Holi comes steeped with a multitude of wellness benefits that strive to make our lives all the more colorful and happier.
As a spring festival that marks the onset of summer and is therefore a celebration during the transitional period of nature, Holi takes place at a time when the turn of the weather offers a favourable ground for various bacteria to breed in the atmosphere which is the reason why we tend to fall sick so easily during these dry months. In effectively killing off such bacteria and protecting the human body from them, Holi plays a rather important role and interestingly in its traditional significance. The burning of bonfire as part of the tradition of Holika Dahan from which Holi is largely believed to draw is one rather intriguing way of destroying the bad breed of the bacteria while still invoking the divine. As a day to rid oneself of errors in its religious leaning by performing rituals with the burning of the Holika bonfire and performing a parikrama around it, Holi sees also the fire of divinity work its charm through rather physical means- by burning down also the bacteria in the surrounding atmosphere, manifesting therefore its significance as a festival that marks the destroyal of all things bad. In cleansing the environment we live in and thereby cleansing also our bodies, Holi through its ritualistic means of the Holika Dahan is indeed a festival that seeks to purge the world of every kind of negativity.
The blazing fire however isn’t the only way the tradition of Holika Dahan renders Holi the benefits that it exercises on human health. After the burning of the bonfire, it is a tradition in some parts of India for the people to smear their foreheads with the resultant ash. This form of celebrating Holi with the ashes however takes on a different magnitude altogether in Varanasi where a certain Chita Bhasm tradition takes centerstage as being the basis of the festival. Apart from such religious drawings, it also is an associated tradition to consume a mixture made of sandalwood paste with the young leaves and flowers of the Mango tree in the belief that it promotes good health. In such aspects of its celebrations therefore that go beyond the revelry, Holi indeed comes across as a festival that celebrates most the essence of life in itself.
Furthering this zest with life is Holi in its very identity as a celebration that involves a wide array of colours. It indeed are the myriad hues that Holi bathes us in, that has us appreciating more the vibrant vibes of spring. As a festival so conveniently doused in the flitting romance of a season buoyant in the radiance of blooming flowers in an earth bursting with greenery, colors are integral to Holi, of course also to religious measure. As gulaals in different shades of the pinks and the reds, the violets and the yellows, the blues and the greens fill the air and mark their presence upon our skin, they also subsequently make for a case of health in their traditionally natural predominance.
Though the artificial and synthetic colors that dominate today the canvas of an India immersed in the fun of Holi does more harm than good to the body, the natural colors through which Holi had perpetuated in the ancient past meant that the festival nurtured yet another means to health. With abeer extracted from such beneficial natural ingredients like turmeric, Neem, Palash (Tesu), hibiscus flowers, henna leaves, Kesar, sandalwood that also enjoy special significance within the realms of Ayurveda, Holi indeed had been a way of dedicated skin and hair care regimen for the Indian people of the past.
In fact as a festival that signals the end of the dreary days of winter leaving us with dry skin and dull hair, Holi perhaps is a religious and cultural way of inviting back vigour into our lives. And the many natural colors helped in doing just that as they drew upon the properties of their composite elements to heal the human body. In cleansing and clearing dead skin as well as in working upon the skin, hair and eyes in their natural characteristics, mainly through strengthening the body’s ions, these colors ended up endowing a whole world of health and beauty to the people, restoring their vitality, both in essence and in spirit.
Beyond the physicality of it all, holi gulaal impacts upon human health also in their symbolic significance. Colors tremendously impacts our life by impacting our perception of it and as such have been believed to hold important place besides the other vital elements that guarantee us with good health of the body and the mind. The deficiency of a particular color can lead to ailment, much as the deficiency of vitamins or minerals are known to induce. In its association with the color white, which is the traditional pick in the choice of Holi attire, Holi symbolizes a new beginning which in itself is already profound a realisation for us to embark on our lives with a new energy and in a fresh spirit. But the gulaal colors shower us with their own benefits as well. Red for instance is believed to be a color that energizes the body by stimulating breathing and heart functions, not to mention how it incites the feeling of love which again goes a long way in ensuring a blissful life. Yellow bears a certain happy vibe that might in fact render us to be more joyful, even when it impacts certain organs of the body as well, particularly the intestines. And despite the fact how the ‘blues’ are not anything bearing any affinity to a peaceful existence, the color indeed can calm us down and make us feel more at ease with everything around us. In such significant ways in which colors act upon our health, both physically and psychologically, it indeed is the yearly celebration of the festival of colors that goes a long way in bettering our lives in a wide many ways.
Not just colors though, it also is the frolic that comes to characterise Holi, much like all other festivals and celebrations, that also come with their own favourable impact upon the human body. Modern day Holi parties might be a din of the latest party songs and of course Holi specific numbers to which revelers get going but the festival is as characterised by its humming of the many folk songs that play out diversely through the length and breadth of the country. Accompanied by high octane, traditional instruments like the dhol, this tempo of the celebrations is just the power boost we need in those days of transitioning between the seasons of nature, when the body feels so drained of energy. Accompanied by brisk movement of the body, something which also makes for so much of the color pouring and water spraying essence of the festival, the Holi festivities are a rather fun means to make the tardiness of the season take backseat, prepping the body instead for the days to follow by injecting a rush of energy into the physical being as well as by rejuvenating the mind and the spirit.
Celebrations of any form are never complete with the mention of food which is what fuels life in the first place. Needless to say then, Holi also is characterised by a range of such amazing food stuff that enhances the enjoyment of it all the more. With sinful delicacies like gujiyas, malpuas, ladoos, puran polis, dahi vada and traditional Indian drinks like thandai on offer as exclusive Holi treats, the festival of colors comes with more than one reason to have us feeling happy and spirited. But even in its sumptuousness, the wide range of Holi specific foods harbour also benefits unique to them. Particularly in its tradition of being associated with Lord Shiva, Holi food is most known for its dwelling in the intoxicating effects of bhang. Be it bhang laced thandai or bhang ke pakode, the festivities are rendered all the more exciting with that generous dose of indulgence that stems of benefits from the Lord himself! Mentioned in the Atharva Veda as a beneficial plant that helps relieve anxiety and makes one feel happy and relaxed, bhang comes with a host of benefits as well despite deriving from cannabis, something that is frowned upon on ordinary days of the year. As the cure for certain diseases most likely to afflict the human body during this vulnerable period of seasonal change, bhang rules the roost in Holi.
Famed also for its cooling properties, bhang is therefore an integral element of every Holi celebration. Especially when mixed with traditional drinks like Thandai, which as the name suggests is a cooling agent in itself, bhang enjoys a significance in Holi that makes the festival all the more eagerly anticipated. Even without the additional cool intoxication though, it is another traditional drink called Kaanji that is as much a favorite Holi staple. A fermented delight from the northern region of the country, this chilled serving of tanginess comes loaded also in nutrients and fibres and antioxidants, doing the body therefore another world of good while delivering an amazing taste as well.
As it turns out then, every single aspect of our favorite festival of colors is steeped in an importance of its own. Right from the season of its celebration to the reason of its being, from the fun of the colors to the lure of the food, Holi encompasses benefits in its essence all through to make for a splendid indulgence of life in all its worldly worth.