Monday, March 21, 2011
- Hindus celebrated 2011 Holi despite increased religious persecution in Pakistan
The frolicsome colour fights that are the highlight of the festival will, however, not start until the Holika Dahan (the burning of Holika) which is the raison d’être of the day that falls on Poornamashi (a full moon). An effigy of the demon Holika is burned on a stack of wood, straw and bamboo. In Karachi, the biggest celebrations are held at the Swami Narayan Mandir near the city courts.
- At Swami Narayan Mandir : Wear old clothes to Holi but come with a fresh spirit in Pakistan
KARACHI: “Holi hai! Holi hai,” shouted the young and old as the fight of colours started after the fire was lit at the Swami Narayan mandir on Saturday.
Hundreds of families thronged the temple in white and old clothes to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. “It’s a time of celebration but never wear your best clothes on Holi,” cautioned an elderly woman who had come with her grandsons and daughters.
Newly wed couples, celebrating their first Holi after their weddings, were the first ones to reach the ground. Brides dressed in their red and green wedding saris, decorated with heavy copper, gold and silver sequins, come with their husbands to receive blessings. “They don’t want their wedding dresses to get stained,” quipped one woman mischieviously. Each couple first did the pooja (worship) before again taking the seven rounds around the fire.
While the children were busy spraying each other with colours against a backdrop of Indian Holi songs, the women were busy with pooja, performing the customary rituals of sprinkling rice into the fire, and milk around it.
According to another custom, a pot full of chickpeas is set in the middle of the vertical logs of the fire and it cooks the whole night. In the morning, the cooked chickpeas are checked to access and predict the harvest of the year. If they are raw it suggests that the harvest will be bad, explained Nandlal Bhatia, an organiser.
“It won’t be cold for a single more day here,” remarked Bhatia, speaking from 64 years of experience. Holi marks the end of winter.
The fire will be extinguished early morning with pots of water but the colour fights will continue well into the night and into the next day.
- Minorities in Pakistan: No public holiday for Hindus for festivals
While most employers are flexible about giving leave and government employees use off-days from their quotas, private companies cut salaries of those who avail the holiday.
“Minorities should have equal rights. Those working for the government should be given special leave,” says Shakuntala, whose husband works for a government office in Multan.
According to the Pakistan Hindu Council’s statistics for 2011, over seven million Hindus live in Pakistan. The figure is almost double that of Christians in the country who enjoy a public holiday on Christmas.
Ram, who is a senior member of the community from Rahim Yar Khan, said that it was regrettable that minorities were living in fear. “Even though the constitution says so, religious minorities in the country do not enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by the majority,” he said.
While heads of state also send out felicitation messages for Eid and Christmas, no such greetings are made for Hindu festivals. For Eids, special monetary announcements are also made but for Hindu festivals, only the government of Punjab announced special financial relief. The provincial government has given Rs5,000 to each Hindu family living in southern Punjab, where over 150 Hindu families live. However, in Sindh, where many more Hindu households can be found, no such fiscal measure was announced.
Over 97 per cent of Pakistan’s Hindus live in Sindh and Punjab. “We have not received any stipend or other financial assistance even though this event is an important one for the community,” said Rajeev, a young labourer from Jacobabad.
While those with jobs are able to take days off, students, especially schoolchildren, almost always have to miss out on ceremonies to attend school.
“I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because I had to attend class. I am very upset at missing out,” said Raas Damin, a student of grade 9 in Hyderabad.
NOTE : We will soon share more pictures of 2011 Holi celebrated by Hindus in different provinces of Pakistan like Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa or NWFP and Islamabad City etc.
---By Pakistan Hindu League (PHL)