The Story of Color -Origin of “Holi”

Holi, India’s colorful gift to the world, is a grand annual festival celebrated in India, Nepal and many parts of the world where Indian communities live. It is commonly known as the “Festival of color” and is a celebration of the arrival of spring. It also is the one occasion where you get to go “bananas” with colors without getting on the wrong side of your family and friends !! 😛

Anyone who is a obsessed with India and Holi knows the drill!! Apply as much color on people around you and also get as much as you can on yourself 😛  Simple and fun!!

But how many of us know the true meaning of Holi, why it is celebrated or the rituals surrounding this festival.

Holi is A Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon day of the month Phalguna (March) and celebrates the commencement of spring, a celebration of good harvest and also symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

The stories behind the start of Holi is quite interesting.

According to Indian legend once there ruled a demon king Hiranyakashipu whose sister was the evil queen Holika (Thus the name Holi). Hiranyakashipu was given a boon that made him indestructible and because of this he become power hungry and tried to define himself as a god, forcing people under him to treat him as a god. But his son Prahlada was a deep devotee of Lord Vishnu and he believed in the path of righteousness and the demon king could not bear that his own son did not obey him. And as any annoyed demon king would do he tried to torture and kill his son (sigh!). But his attempts did not harm or break the devotion of Prahlada to lord Vishnu.

When nothing worked,  Holika steps in and tricks Prahlada to sit in a pyre with her in the hopes of burning him to death.  According to one legend she was wearing a shawl that had the ability to save her from the burning fire, but not Prahlada. But as fire rose the shawl flew away from Holika and wrapped itself around Prahlada saving him and burning Holika. According to another story Holika had the ability to withstand fire when inside the pyre only if she is with someone, and when Prahlada prayed to Lord Vishnu he saved him from the fire leaving Holika alone and she was burnt to death. Thus good won over evil !!

The lighting of a bonfire as a part of the celebration, done till date is to symbolizes the burning of Holika and the triumph of good over evil. It is said that the day after the burning of Holika people applied the ashes of the bonfire on their foreheads in celebration. Even today people apply the ashes from the bonfire on their foreheads as a ritual and believe that the ashes have medicinal properties.

This festival also has a mythological connection to lord Krishna. Krishna had dark blue colored skin because of the poisonous milk that the she-demon Putana fed him as a baby. So growing up he had doubts whether Radha and the other maidens would like him because of his skin color. After hearing this his mother Yashoda asked him to go to Radha and apply any color on her face so that they would both be colored.

And thus the epic love of Lord Krishna and Radha began and so did the tradition of applying color.

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Modern day people start preparing for Holi from weeks before, they collect wood and twigs for the bonfire, buy color powder, water guns (pichkaris) and prepare food and drinks. The whole country goes in to a coma of festivity, with roadside shops popping up selling color powder and pitchkaris of all shapes and sizes, children going from home to home collecting wood and twigs for the bonfire and drummers and dancers starting to prep them self’s for the big day. The preparation of traditional delicacies such as Gujiya, malpuas, puran poli (Maharashtra) is a major part of this festival along with the preparation of Bahng the adult intoxicating drink popular among both men and women specially during Holi.

The main celebrations and rituals of Holi can change from region to region along with the number of days,but the two main events remain the same- Holi ka dahan and Rang wali Holi

Holi ka dahan

The commencement of the festival is marked by the lighting of a bonfire. This is done on the Full moon day of the Hindu month Phalguna (March). People in the neighborhood get together and clean an open area and build a bonfire with wood and twigs.

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Then at night they light it up and do puja around it, throwing oil and flowers in to it. They Sing, Dance around the fire to celebrate the arrival of spring. Then they would use the ashes of this bonfire to light up the stoves at home.

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Rang wali Holi

The day after the bonfire is the well-known color Holi,

People would get up early in the morning and get ready for the beautiful mayhem of colors. They gather in groups in open spaces to dance, sing and play Holi disregarding all  boundaries such as gender, cast and age .

Reds, blues, yellows, greens whatever color you desire is in the air surrounding you. It is as if you are wrapped around by a blanket made with every color you can find in the world. Some play with color powder and some play with liquid colors using Pichkaris. Be prepared to drench your self in color liquid and covered in powdered colors.

People used to use color powder  made from natural substances like, turmeric, kum kum or leaves. But now a days people commonly use synthetic color powders that are widely available in the market. But because of the environmental impact these synthetic powders have, there is a new tread to go back to natural colors. Also now a day’s people are encouraged to use the powder form of color to play instead of using the water solvable one  in order to save water.

Since this is a festival where people get out of their shell, let their hair down and have fun lots of pranks are played and the whole atmosphere is filled with laughter and just pure merriment.

And a bonus is you can get away with any silly prank that you do on this day (as long as it’s not dangerous), you just have to say the magical words “Bura na mano, Holi Hai!! (Don’t be angry, it’s Holi)!! specially the younger generation takes the advantage of this yearly chance to play pranks and just have pure fun! ( It’s not every day that you get to throw water at the aunties and uncles in the neighborhood and not get in to trouble 😛 )

Fun fact- In Braj India, where lord Krishna grew up Holi is celebrated for 16 days!!! And here on one day the men go around the village holding shields and ladies get to beat those shields with sticks – FUNN!!

Holi is a day to celebrate the arrival of spring, a new beginning, a day to forget and forgive. A day to have as much fun as the heart desires and a day to embrace the colors of the world. So if you’re planning to head down to India next year why not plan your trip to coincide with Holi so you can get this experience firsthand! Because trust me its a memory that you will cherish for the rest of your life !

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A simple guide to Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise island located in the Indian Ocean is world famous for Tea, Cinnamon and gorgeous beaches, but being a native  I know firsthand it has much more to offer especially in terms of travel. So this is an attempt to list ten of the major “Must do’s” in this paradise island (out of many) in the hopes of helping a fellow traveler plan better.

  1. Beaches

Starting with the most popular one, Sri Lanka being an island is surrounded with the most gorgeous tropical beaches you will ever see.

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Coast line of Katharagama

Hikkaduwa, Nilaveli, Unawatuna, Mirissa and Tangalla are just a few of the major beaches located in Sri Lanka  and each beach is different from one another offering different activities for its visitors. You can just relax and get a tan on at any of the beaches, or you could go scuba diving in Trincomalee, go surfing in Nilaveli or go whale watching in Mirissa.  Whatever your beach activity preference is, Sri Lanka has got you covered.

  1. Meet the elephants

Go meet these Asian giants you have heard so much about.

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Meet and greet at the Yala border

If You prefer to see them in their own habitat go to one of the many wild life sanctuaries located in Sri Lanka such as Yala National park, Wilpattuwa National Park, Wasgamuwa National Park and see them in the wilderness doing their own thing!. Or if you want to interact with them more closely, you can go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage where you can help in feeding baby elephants or give one a bath.

  1. Sigiriya

Sigiriya is a UNESCO World heritage site located a few hours away from Kandy. This rock fortress is world famous for its Lions Paw, Fresco paintings, Mirror wall and the fascinating water garden with still functioning water fountains. You can also climb up the Pidurangala mountain close by to get a better view of the Sigiriya rock and the surroundings.

  1. Kandy

Visit the second largest city in the country to see the temple of the tooth relic, stroll among exotic flora at the royal botanic gardens, feel the breeze of Kandy lake or see Kandian dancers in action.

 

  1. Colombo

The one true metropolitan city of Sri Lankan is home to an array of architecturally interesting buildings, shopping centers, museums and parks. Go for an evening stroll at Gall Face and indulge your taste buds in Isso wade from a roadside shop or shop till you drop in the many shopping centers located throughout Colombo that offers both local and international brands and artisan goods.

  1. Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa

A history buff? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Head to Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa to get a dose of history dating back to 4th century BC or before. Walk among the gigantic Stupas, Drink local herbal teas such as Belimal, Ranawara, or hire a bicycle and ride among the many archaeologically important ruins – your bound to be mesmerized by the remains of an ancient time.

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Walk around the gigantic Stupas ( Note- Those are fully fledged humans at the bottom of the Stupa , so ya they are HUGE)

 

  1. Waterfalls

Sri Lanka is home to large number of waterfalls both big and small, the largest being Bambarakanda waterfall.  If you’re heading towards Nuwaraeliya your bound to come across a few of these mesmerizing natural wonders. Take a dip in one of them but do pay attention to the safety signs displayed.

 

  1. Hike

Being a country home to many different mountain terrains Sri Lanka is famous for all the different hikes you can go on, whether it’s Ella, Adams’ peak or Hantana your bound to love the path and where it leads to. Go see the sunrise at Adams’ Peak, where you will get to see the world famous triangular shadow at sunrise. This mountain is a religious place and pilgrimage season is between December and April so you can join the flocks of pilgrims climbing up during this season or go up alone during off season.

  1. Tea

If you’re a tea person (or not) Go see where the magic happens. Stroll among the Tea plantations, go to a tea factory and drink authentic Ceylon tea. If you are traveling to the hill region of Sri Lanka you will come across a lush tea plantations and factories. Some plantations have a little bit more to offer like the Sembuwatta Lake located inside the Alkaduwa plantation.

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  1. Visit the Vaddas

The Vaddas are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. You can meet them, learn their life style if you visit the Dambana jungle village. Head off to Dambana to learn a few words from their indigenous language, listen to their traditional songs and watch them perform their traditional dance.

 

This list only has a small fraction of what Sri Lanka has to offer to its visitors. Even though Sri Lanka is a small island nation it has so much to offer to the wanderers who love to explore.

Do visit Sri Lanka to experience all of this and a lot more. And let us know in the comments below what you loved (or even didn’t like) about Sri Lanka.

Happy Travels,

XOXO

Batu Caves

Batu caves are a labyrinth of limestone caves located 17 Km from Kuala Lumpur, home to a world famous Hindu temple complex. It is without a doubt the most popular Hindu temple complex in Malaysia and is dedicated to lord Murugan.

On our way to Taman negara from Kuala Lumpur we decided to stop at Batu caves..because.. Hey you can’t be in Malaysia and not visit Batu caves!!!

Our driver only gave us 30 min at Batu caves !! 😦 😦 He was .. well let’s just say that Santa will give the Grinch more presents than him 😛

It was a bit frustrating that I didn’t get to spend more time at the caves but we did see everything there is to see in the main cave complex slightly under the time the driver gave us .. I had read about all the mountain climbing point located around and badly wanted to check them out but you can only do so much in 30 min 😦

A gigantic gold statue of lord Murugan welcomes you at the base of the cave. It is the tallest statue of lord Murugan in the world and is highly popular among Hindu devotees around the world.

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Once you pass the Statue, you have to climb up 272 steps to get to the cave opening. The steps look steep and hard when you look from the bottom but once you start climbing its not that hard, but needless to say that the overly friendly monkeys sitting  around don’t help the climb. They are cute and fluffy but be a bit alert  because you can’t say when they will creep up on you without you noticing.

You can take this chance to help the construction going on in the temple inside the cave by taking up a bucket of sand for them. At the start of the stair way they will ask if you would like to participate. It’s a nice way to give back! 🙂

The cave structure itself is amazing with different shaped limestone structures hanging from the ceiling ..

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Once you climb up the stair way and come to the mouth of the cave trust me you will be taken by surprise as to how big the cave really is .. In no way did I expect the cave to be this big..

The cave is in three levels , first is the mouth of the cave where there is one small temple. Then you have to go down a stair ways to enter the large middle part or the Temple Cave which has a few temple and a few statues of gods and goddesses. This cave is LARGE! The ceiling is easily more than 100 meter in height.

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Then again you have to climb up a stair way to get to the last chamber. This chamber houses the main Hindu temple and the most amazing part is that this chamber has an opening in the ceiling.

 

The climb down offers you a great view of the surrounding with the Kuala Lumpur city dotting in the horizon. Mid stairways you will see a sign to the Dark caves which was closed when we went. According to other travelers it’s a cave tunnel that is home to many animals that are only found in this region.

Also at the base of the cave there are many shops offering food and beverages. Specially great Indian food.

And if you would like to try your hands at feeding pigeons you can buy a bag of pigeon treats at these shops.

Batu caves is definitely a must if your in Kuala Lumpur or anywhere around.. its really interesting to see how natures structures and man made structures co-exist.

Happy Travels..

Sorry!…

Last Sunday I was on my way to Colombo from Kandy on the 7.40 am intercity bus. It was the middle of a long weekend so the bus was packed with locals visiting relatives (Me, Me, Mee!!) and a few foreign travelers making their way to Colombo. A few minute before the departure time a foreign girl got on to the bus with a “larger than her” backpack. She looked like she has been traveling for a while and my attention drifted towards her in a matter of seconds.. Being a travel addict who is dreaming of the next day when I can pack a backpack and just leave to travel the world, meeting a backpacker is always interesting! She sat down a bit in front of me and settled down for the long ride ahead.. her backpack was quite large so she had to hassle a bit to get it in place (been there, Done that and its harddd!!)..

Just the sight of a well packed backpack ready for world travel is enough to make me go googly eyed!! So I started to build my version of her story in my mind (yap, I know it’s creepy!) – where she must have been, how long she might have been traveling, how far she must have been, how many great places she must have had the chance to be to, all the great things she must have seen all the culture she must have experienced… May be she was traveling the world, May be she was helping out with a volunteer program.. may be she was in a quest to find herself !! Endless possibilities! sigh!!! I was mildly jealous looking at her and seeing my dream life..

A while passed and my attention drifted away to the surroundings that we were passing. I was sitting in a place where I could only clearly see the outside through the window next to her because most other passengers had covered the windows with the curtain to shun the sun light! What a waste of sunlight and great scenery!!

As we were passing the Kadugannawa pass (one of the most scenic points in the journey) I was looking out through the window next to her to catch a glimpse of the Aranayake land slide that is slightly visible from Kadugannawa. Since I was on a hunt to find the green mountain with a large brown patch, the leftovers of a massive natural disaster, I didn’t notice anything different until we passed a dark patch of forest and the only thing I could see was her reflection on the window..

My heart broke in to a million pieces when I saw her face! she was crying ! She was hiding it but the reflection was not doing a great job! The same girl I thought must be on top of the Happy cloud because she was a traveler was crying! I don’t know why, may be she was missing home, May be she was missing a friend, may be she was missing the city she was previously in or may be she was just having a bad day !! Whatever the reason is it broke my heart!!

It made me realize it’s not all unicorns, rainbows and butterflies! There are hard parts, hard days! Difficult moments we have to push through!

Traveling brings some of us so much joy – a sort of a high! We get so intoxicated that we forget about the hard parts of it, the things we have to go through to find the beauty in it!.. Sometimes by the time we get back home we forget all the negative things that we went through because all that is covered with the beauty we saw and felt. That doesn’t mean that there are no lows in the High of travel..!

This may be one of the reasons why they say traveling makes us strong. May be we do find a way to summon our inner peace and find a way to push through, while in the middle of nowhere surrounded by strangers.

Travel addicts are a unique breed of humans, we think different! We act different ! but at the end of the day we are just humans under the spell of human emotions!

The only thing I wanted at that moment was to ask whether she was oky and to give her a hug! Because sometimes that’s all that we need. A hug, an assuring nod or just a smile!  But I couldn’t !! Rows of seats were in the way (not to mention the little devil in my head telling me that she might not like the talking or hugging part!!)

Even though I try to cover up what I felt with humor/or what I think is humor while writing this, there are no words to tell you how bad I felt and is feeling that I didn’t do anything to bring a fellow traveler just a bit of comfort. May be my actions might not help her or even bring her comfort. But I wish I could have at least tried!!

So, in the off (OOFFF) chance she is reading this, I’m sorry that I was not able to be a better human being/Traveler and help you even just by a smile .. And I really hope you did find the inner peace you need to enjoy the rest of your travels..

Safe travels and stay strong,

XOXO