Jari Mari Mata Temple on S.V. Road, Bandra.\nThe venue for the Holi bonfire on the night of the Spring Full Moon.\nPast Holi bonfires at this location are a part of my childhood.\nAnd the Present bonfire, now captured on very bad pictures on an old mobile phone, is mostly an attempt to relive those memories.\n**\nThe Jari Mari temple is a short walk away from my childhood home. Every year, on the night before the festive play of colors on \u2018Dhuleti\u2019 a bonfire is lit in honor of of a good hero Prahlad conquering an evil demonness Holika.\nThese legends from the Hindu scriptures were just stories for me and were a marginal part of the drama created that evening every year with the lighting of the bonfire.\nMy grandma was a part of a \u201cmahila mandal\u2019 or a ladies group who got together to celebrate festivals.\n(Here it is important to note one significant feature of the old Indian society that is different from current day urban society in India or elsewhere.\u00a0 Today, the anchor of social relationships is the husband-wife unit. In those days, the husband wife relationship was just marginal to one\u2019s social anchors. Every woman was bonded strongly with the other women in the joint or extended family. The mother-in-law, the sister-in-laws, the neighbours, all reached out to each other for their social interactions and husbands played a small part of the socialising. So this \u2018mahila mandal\u2019 acted as a sisterhood social structure)\nIn those days phones were not available. So we, the little children acted as the little messengers carrying messages to and from the ladies of the mandal to plan the evening\u2019s festivities. \u2018What time should we all go down to the temple\u2019 \u2018What sweets should we carry\u2019 and such other matters were arranged through us.\nMy day would be spent as usual \u2013 going to school and arranging materials for the color play the next day and looking forward to the events of the 24 hours that would follow. The bonfire would mark the start of the festivities and the anticipation would build up over the whole day. Around 8 pm the excitement would become unbearable (am not sure why \u2013 because the bonfire actually had no \u2018fun\u2019 element \u2013 but am just recalling my memories) and I\u2019d ask for permission to go to the temple to check if the fire had been lit or not. 250 meters was considered \u2018too far\u2019 for me to venture out alone so I was allowed to go to the mid point. It would always be too early in my first check and 2-3 other sojourns would follow before I could announce the good news.\nThen my grandma would collect the ladies in our building and we would all gather downstairs and leave. Each of the ladies had a \u2018puja thali\u2019 or worship plate containing red powder, rice grains, yellow turmeric powder, white sugar flowerettes, stringed white sugar discs called batasha, a mud lamp, flowers, a small pot of water, a whole skinned coconut and sometimes a bunch of green grams attached to their stems.\nWe\u2019d all walk together as a group and along the way other groups from other buildings would merge in.\nAt the bonfire, my grandma (and the other women) would lay down their thalis and perform the puja, while I would copy their actions without any comprehension or conviction or lack of it.\nAfter offerings of the red powder and the rice grains, the coconut would be put into the fire along with the grams. (Later the priest\u2019s helpers would retrieve the consecrated coconut from the fire and give back half to the offerer and keep half for the temple to distribute to other devotees.). She would then walk around the holi bonfire in the clockwise direction carrying the pot of water at an angle to allow a steady trickle as she walked. Three rounds later she would stop and offer the flowers and hold the lamp in her hand and perform an \u2018arti\u2019 of the holi bonfire murmuring some prayer chants that I never quite learnt.\nWe\u2019d then urge the busy helpers to give us back a coconut half and he\u2019d plod and poke with his irons into the fire and retrieve one.\nThis would mark the end of the prayer service.\nThe women gathered would then put a little color on each other since they would not be meeting on the following day of dhuleti. After a little chit chat we\u2019d all head back home.\nIn those days \u2013 water balloons had just been introduced and boisterous young boys would stand at their windows and throw these at the women as they all walked back from the puja. As was customary and expected, the women would pout a few harsh words at them (a show of approval would have taken the fun out of the boys\u2019 mischief) and the boys would laugh and hide. This was all done in good spirit, and I am certain that the women would have felt neglected had the boys failed to \u2018trouble\u2019 them with this fun stuff.\nWith heightened spirits and very fulfilling community bonding everyone would reach home, too excited to sleep, because the next day was \u2018dhuleti\u2019 the play of colors.\nThe Holi bonfire night is usually shadowed out by the glamour and the excitement of the color play and when most people speak of Holi, they speak of the color play. But they are part of the same 2-day festival.\nOver the 2 years that I lived in Mumbai I planned again and again to show my children the bonfire \u2013 but unfortunately, I failed. As expected, I managed to organise spectacular dhuletis for them but the bonfire experience remained elusive and became a regret.\nYesterday, unplanned, un-orchestrated at a moment\u2019s notice I decided to be a part of the bonfire and I watched it from the beginning.\u00a0 Reliving my past, cancelling out a regret.\nA few terrible pictures of a very happy experience :\nBefore the fire is lit\nThe additional dried leaves and logs to fuel the fire\n\nLit Bonfire\nVideo 1 : Circling around the Holi with folded hands\n\nVideo 2 : The Priest offering worship\n\nVideo 3 : Lighting the Holi fire (this bigger video will be put up once I have faster internet)\n\u00a0\nFor years I held on to these wistful dreams and hopes of reliving these experiences \u2026..and I finally did it!\nHaving learnt that the critical factor in living this desire was not the \u2018effort\u2019 but the \u2018decision\u2019 I am encouraged to live out more of these \u2026.\n\u00a0\njm\nMarch 2012\n\u00a0\nThe post The Holi Festival \u2013 Present & Past appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.