Holi transformation: Festival of Cupid to Color of Divine

  • Nectar distributed by His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami

2023.03.15 (Vrindavan Today News):

Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana is an organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the tradition and culture of Braj – Vrindavan.  Every year Ras Lila is organized on the grand stage of its headquarters in Jai Singh Ghera by the troupes of Swami Fateh Krishna Sharma. The staging of Krishna Lila and Gour Lila is organized twice a year during the Shravan (Jhulanotsava) and Falgun (Holi).

 This year also the Krishna Lila was organized during Holi, beginning from the Rangbharni Ekadashi. The Holi Ras Lila culminated on Purnima with the staging of Phoolon ki Holi (Flower Holi) and a grand feast organized at the ashram. The Cultural Event was organized under the auspices of His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami ji Maharaj. Every day at the beginning of the ‘Lila’ Maharaj ji addresses the audience with the nectar of his discourse.

On this very day, Maharaj elaborated the significance of Holi and the importance of celebrating it with reverence, respect, and purity.

His Holiness Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami began the address by asking the audience, “When do we know that Holi is knocking at the door?” He said that Holi is a time when the entire creation, including nature, becomes mad with joy and exuberance. He emphasized that even the gods would be driven to madness upon witnessing the exuberant behavior of humans and nature during this time.

Flower Holi: Divine Couple in action

However, there was a malevolent god who decided to take advantage of this situation and capture all humans’ desires during Holi. He was none other than Cupid, or Kaamdev. Goswami ji emphasized that Holi is a festival of joy and love, not lust. The question, then, was how to transform the “Madan Utsav” (Cupid festival) into a “Madan Mohan Utsav” – a festival of Divine Love?

Maharaj ji explained that this transformation could only occur through the devotees’ efforts, and in this case, it was the Braj Gopikas (the cowherd girls) who fulfilled Krishna’s desire. They prayed to the Divine Couple, “Let us go and live in Vrindavan. Until you are not there, this festival will continue to be celebrated as a Cupid festival, but it will never become a Divine Festival of love.”

Shri Krishna initially hesitated to grant their request, but He recognized that the transformation of the festival into one of Divine Love could only be achieved through love itself. He initiated His Lila on Sharad Purnima which took a month to do away with Kamadeva entirely.

On the auspicious occasion of Kartik Purnima, the Kaamdev Samadhi i.e overcoming the Cupid marked the beginning of the Maharaas. However, despite this, the desire of the gopis remained unfulfilled. The sakhis prayed to Priyaju (Shri Radha) that this Ras Vilas was beyond the capabilities of Shri Shyamsundar alone. It was only possible if Shri Radharani blessed it. Shri Radha ji accepted their request and instructed them to celebrate Panchami by putting color on every crossroad, playing drums in every street, and making an announcement that there would be a grand Maharas on Phagun Purnima.

HH Acharya Shrivatsa Goswami Maharaj

Even though the Ras was performed secretly at night, there was no more need to hide during this Maharaas because there was no one to hide from. The Kaamdev already stood consumed, the one from whom one had to hide.

Now, there was no need to hide from anyone. On Ashtami, people enjoy the sweet delicacy of Laddoos while getting drenched in the rain of colors. The celebration of Lathmar Holi takes place on Navami.

During Lathmar Holi in Braj, Radharani and her friends playfully beat Krishna and his friends with sticks, humbling their arrogance. However, the celebrations don’t end with Holi alone – the real Holi of Braj begins after the actual Holi.

As the festive spirit subsides in most parts of the country, Braj, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, continues to celebrate Holi with a unique tradition called Huranga. Spanning seven days, the festivities of Huranga are a sight to behold.

“Witnessing the festivities, our Dau-dada (Balaram) couldn’t resist joining in on the fun. Dau dada (Balaram) is unashamed of the local customs and gleefully takes part in the revelry, allowing the women to playfully hit him with sticks. This joyous tradition is celebrated in various locations such as Dauji, and Jawat,” informed His Holiness Goswami ji.

A Sakhi showering the flower petals on the Divine Couple

Maharaj ji then highlighted another historical significance of the day of Holi. He said, “On the night of Holi in 1486, another history was created when the moon was fully eclipsed, and Priya and Priyatam, both Holi rasiks, became one and appeared in Navdeep Dham. This day is the day of the manifestation of Shriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Acharya ji questioned, “How would we have come to know about the Holi of Vrindavan, without the mercy of Shriman Mahaprabhu? He said that it would have been lost if Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had not come to Vrindavan. Today is the day of Holi, the date of the re-appearance of Vrindavan from a historical perspective. Had Mahaprabhu not visited Braj, nothing would be known of Vrindavan in the geography. It would be only limited to literature, books, drama, and poetry, but no one would know if there was a geographical presence of Vrindavan. 

Shriman Mahaprabhu visited Braj in 1515. The land of Vrindavan didn’t manifest until He came here. While visiting Braj His Lila in past Shri Krishna unfolded to Him. He declared this land on the bank of Yamuna as Vrindavan.

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