Holi (Devanagari: होली) - Social and Philosophical Unity
On this holy occasion, let us unite like the colors of Holi, bring strength to our relationships with families and friends and drive social evils away.
Holi has been celebrated in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times and has been a widespread cultural phenomenon across all social strata, irrespective of faith, philosophies and identities or even occupations of people.
The subcontinent is home to myriads of social groups (or "jatis") where each "jati" has a few hundreds to millions of members since the ancient times. These "jatis" are characterized by their different predominant occupations (although not always strictly adhering to them) and their individual temperaments unique to each group.
Traditional Indian philosophy (or "darshan") informally through folktales or folklore, and sometimes formally through its literature, assigns colors to different temperaments of groups, individuals and occupations in its social and cultural efforts to make a better sense of the world around.
Each color represents a unique temperament. For example, yellow is usually associated with the business/trade-based temperament and red is associated with the warrior temperament.
Similarly, black is associated with the mood of service (seva bhaav) which is indeed one of the cornerstones of various Indic "darshans" and beliefs, not limiting to just Hinduism but also faiths such as Sikhism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shaivism etc.
On Holi, the mixing of colors, extracted from various flowers, has always signified the unity of society, where different colors are playfully or respectfully applied onto people, ultimately turning them into a indistinguishable dark/black hue, emphasizing that we are all inseparable and our identities are merged in each other. This also signifies the society becoming morally responsible towards protecting and nurturing beliefs and identities of different groups, and reestablishing the idea of indiscriminate service or seva bhaav (Sanskrit: सेवा भाव ) towards one other. This strong belief in seva bhaav then becomes the cornerstone for different occupations within our Indian civilization.
In similar fashion, the concept of Ishta Devata (Sanskrit: इष्ट देवता) within the Indian thought is quite unique in its approach to accommodate different beliefs and temperaments of the social groups (or "jatis") and individuals. People and social groups may have deities reflecting their temperaments and by worshiping them, they aim to eventually find expression and validation in a concept of a higher power.
Since the upanishadic times, Indian thought proclaims the non-dual (Advaita; अद्वैत) nature of reality and that everything is the expression of the ONE called the "Brahman" (Devanagari:ब्राह्मण) in Indic thought.
"Brahman" emanates everything but It is still formless, It is the highest universal principle and the cause of everything but is still not the part of the universe, It has traditionally been defined in terms of negation as "neither this, nor that" (neti neti). Hence, although all the Ishta Devtas are different deities and encompass different temperaments of different individuals and also social groups, they still are the expression of the ONE "Brahman" which is eternal, infinite and which does not possess a character, yet is the cause of all characters and differences in the world.
Again, mixing of various colors of Holi in to one hue signifies the mearging of various beliefs and temperaments (and their corresponding Ishta Devatas of different social groups and individuals) in to ONE "Brahman." Holi is therefore an ecstatic, festive, practical and enlightened expression and self-realization of the above mentioned "Brahman" which has been established by the ancient thinkers of India for the social and philosophical unity of their world.
In summary, Holi is the celebration of the spirit of human life and the unity in diversity. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever you believe in, whatever you do – the occasion of Holi offers you a realization of the ultimate oneness.
We wish you a very happy and auspicious Holi!