Harassment at Holi: Is the Festival for Good Over Evil? Or Evil Continued?

Women Holi Celebrations

Like any other Hindu festivities, Holi is also the celebration of good over evil. The celebration starts with Holika Dahan-translatable into the burning of Holika. It is an annual bonfire ritual associated with Holi celebrations and reminds everyone of the legends, reinstating the idea of good triumphing over evil. The second day is termed as Dol or Rongwali Holi, where people use dry and wet colours to play Holi. It symbolizes the celebrations after the victory of good. Nonetheless, in contemporary times the celebrations are not as innocent as the legends declare.

In the mortal world, people hardly have good intentions and most of these people use the Holi celebrations to molest women in the guise of putting colours on them. Such that some even go to the extent of flinging semen filled balloons on women. Certain cases of this type have been recorded in Delhi.

In 2018, a college-going student had filed a police complaint in the Greater Kailash Police Station seeking justice for semen filled balloons being thrown at her at the Amar Colony Market. It is a revenge-seeking method that men employ to intimidate women for exercising their consent and rejecting proposals of love. The men use it as a method to grab women of their choice and harass men in the name of “Bura na mano holi hain!” which can be translated into “Do not complain because it’s Holi.” This is a sly way of verbally asserting male supremacy over women-trying to underline that women are emotionally reactive to things that never happen or to things that are normal.

It was also a norm until very recently to forbid widows of Vrindaban from playing Holi. But some progressions have been achieved and many widows residing in Vrindaban now play Holi. This helps to erase years of ostracization faced by the Vrindaban widows. This is the sixth year that widows of Vrindaban will play Holi in the Gopinath Temple of Mathura. It is difficult to say that all good has happened. There is a long road ahead. And someday, surely will Holi be the true celebration of good over evil.

Amrita DasGupta is a SOAS Digital Ambassador and is currently PhD-ing in Gender Studies. You can find her with her cats on Instagram @minminloo_mommom.

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