There is a confluence of religious observances this weekend. For Christians there was Good Friday and Glorious Saturday, and today is Easter Sunday. Yesterday was Spiritual/Shouter Baptist Liberation Day. Today, Hindus also celebrate the festival of Phagwa or Holi. Trinidad will be ablaze as thousands of Hindus celebrate the spring festival at over 100 centres.
One of the highlights of this year's Phagwa is the intervention of the Mewasi Dance Group of Gujarat, India and they are here with the assistance of the Indian High Commission and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism, according to Shri Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India."They will give several performances including at Queen's Hall, Divali Nagar, Chinmaya Mission and Napa South."This is a tribal dance group of Gujarat and they will be fully attired in traditional clothes with women adorned in beautiful ornaments while the men will wear turban with peacock tucked in them," he said.
Several Hindu religious and cultural organisations and individual groups will participate in various competitions for cash and other prizes at these judging points.Meanwhile, several Hindu organisations have warned that Phagwa is not "the Hindu Carnival" and that they will not tolerate the drinking of alcohol, eating of meats or lewd behaviour. In fact, they reminded that Phagwa has a deep and serious spiritual significance.Among the major groups staging celebrations are the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) led by Satnarayan Maharaj; the Hindu Prachar Kendra under the tutelage of Shri Ravi Ji and Geeta Ramsingh; and the National Phagwa Council. The Kendra will hold its massive celebrations at Ragoonanan Road, Longdenville, and it will include the community dance in abeer showers and fun games for the children.
What is Phagwaall about?
Phagwa has a very transcendental message for all mankind. It is a message of truth, faith, honesty, graciousness and about life itself. It contains and depicts infinite spirituality even though it is associated with chowtal singing, shaking of jhalls, tassa drumming and the throwing of abeer.But what is Phagwa all about? Is it just sheer merriment, or is there another deeper and spiritual message?
Legend has it that an old woman's grandchild was to be sacrificed to a female demon named Holika and a religious leader in the community advised her that abuse and foul language would subdue Holika. The old woman gathered many children and made them abuse Holika with foul language and the demon fell to the ground and died. The children made a bonfire of her remains.
A connecting chord to this episode is Bhakta Prahalad's devotion to Lord Narayana and his subsequent escape from death at the hands of Holika.Prahalad's father, King Hiranyakashipu, punished him in a variety of ways to change his devotional mind and make him become worldly. But he failed in his attempts. Hiranyakashipu then ordered his sister Holika (who had a boon to remain unhurt even in fire) to take Prahalad on her lap and enter into the blazing flames. She did so, and she subsequently perished. Prahalad remained untouched in the fire and kept laughing. He was not affected by the fire on account of the Grace of Lord Narayana.
For sure, Hiranyakashipu did not measure up to the Sattvic aspect of the Prakritri which embodies purity, light and harmony. He also failed at the Rajas aspect which comprises passion, activity and motion.And as this story of Prahalad unfolds, we mortals must not look at it as just another story without any moral, ethical or spiritual relevance.There is no doubt that Prahalad suffered immensely at the hands of his father and aunt, but the story demonstrates that no matter what punishment one may receive at the hands of evildoers, survival is certain once there is strong and unconditional faith in God.Phagwa recalls the victory of the oppressed against oppressors and the ideal that supreme justice will prevail. It reaffirms that truth, goodness and justice will always be present.