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HOLIKA DAHAN

JASMEEN DUGAL  (click here to know more about this blogger)

Holi brings to mind images of boisterous revelry with colour and bhaang but I was enchanted to witness that in Udaipur, it's a form of 'living heritage', observed by the House Of Mewar.

 

During 'World Living Heritage Festival', a beautiful invitation to participate in the Holika Dahan ceremony at the historic City Palace, was hand delivered to me and I accepted. The envelope was sealed with a regal stamp and upon opening it I found a beautiful card explaining the intricacies of the time honoured festival. A note from Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur explained 'The legacy of The House of Mewar has been passed on since Seventy Five generations and is still alive in our ceremonies, rituals and festivities. People, from near and far,  become its stakeholders as they experience this living heritage… it lives with us and as we live, evolves and thrives becoming even more burnished and beautiful with the passing of each day… I hope that witnessing the Eternal Mewar Festivals will help you in becoming a part of this Living Heritage for it is something to be shared and cherished.' I had heard from my friend Veronique Poles too that it was a grandiose cultural ceremony, an experience unlike any, and I was really looking forward to it!

 

As per the plan, we were to assemble at the reception of Fateh Prakash Palace where we were all staying, and proceed to Manek Chowk, City Palace Complex. At 6 p.m., we met Vrinda Raje Singh, CEO, Joint Custodianship Initiative, Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation; each one us was dressed for the occasion in festive attire as we hailed buggies for Manek Chowk, City Palace Complex where she seated us in the reserved section from where we could observe the royal procession and traditional rituals up close. Within minutes, we witnessed a magnificent palace procession observing royal etiquette, led by ShriJi Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur in his 1905 Vintage Landau, accompanied by finely liveried palace staff, luxuriously bedecked horses and a band that led the cavalcade from Shambhu Niwas Palace to Manek Chowk. Fervent chorus of 'Jai Mewar' resounded in the chowk as guests assembled in balconies cheered the royal procession. After the Holika Poojan where the House of Mewar offered prayers to the effigy of Holika*, performed a parikrama around the effigy, and then Shri Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur lit the bonfire of dried leaves and twigs to burn the effigy.. symbolising the victory of good over evil. Following this, His guests too were invited to perform the parikrama; I too picked up ash from the bonfire and made a tikka on the forehead. Then, ShriJi Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur and Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar sought blessings from the sadhus at Hathnal Ka Darikhana. The ceremony over, festivities began with a kathak performance by Monisa Nayak from the Jaipur gharana, alongside chaat and kebabs served on our table, winding up with flutes of wine toasting a spectacular fireworks display. What made the evening more mystical? It was a full moon night.

 

Walking back to Fateh Prakash Palace (hey! it was a beautiful full moon night!), I reflected on how experiencing the ancient traditions made me appreciate "living heritage" and I vowed to participate in all our festivals hereon. It brought back to mind Tripti Pandey's comment in the workshop on "Oral Tradition" that the onus lies on each one of us to keep traditions, customs and rituals alive and pass it on to the next generation!!

 

 

*Legend has it that there existed a demon king Hiranyakashyap who ordered everybody to worship him. His son, Prahlad, however was a devotee of Lord Vishnu and after several assassination attempts ordered his sister Holika to sit with his son in a fire bath as she had been granted a boon by the gods that it would cleanse her of all sins, but the reverse happened; Prahlad survived and Holika was charred to death. Thus holi is celebrated to commemorate the victory of virtue over evil and burning of the effigy is known as Holika Dahan!
 

HOLIKA DAHAN
The personalised invitation card and I
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
Holika Dahan procession reaches the historic Manek Chowk, City Palace Complex
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
Holika Dahan royal procession led by Arvind Singh Mewar, Maharana Of Udaipur in his 1905 Vintage Landau
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
ShriJi Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur and family do a parikrama of the effigy
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
The House of Mewar offers prayers on the occasion of Holika Dahan
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
ShriJi Arvind Singh Mewar Maharana Of Udaipur, Prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar seek blessings at Hathnal Ka Darikhana
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
The burning of the effigy of Holika that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil!
 
HOLIKA DAHAN
A magnificient fireworks display winds up Holika Dahan on a celeberatory note
 
26-MARCH-2016
 
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