By Swatee Jog
The best thing about any festival is the celebration itself and if it can be done twice, all the more better and merrier. Belgaumites experience these double celebrations during Holi when half the city plays the colours the day after Holi and the rest do so after five days, on Rangpanchami day. Belgaumites are extremely courteous, peace loving and earnest people. Belgaum witnesses preparations for Holi days in advance when the tiny temples of Holi Kamanna, situated at many small bylanes and even a big one sharing the wall with Shivaji Garden, get a facelift with whitewash.
Kids eased out of exam tensions wander around town with the sharp (but irritating at times) ‘timki’ in hand. One can be amazed at the accuracy and variety of ‘taals’ that they produce from this small percussion accessory! They move around residential and commercial localities and collect donations for the burning of the Kamanna effigy. Some really smile-inducing cuss words from these kids forms the key to loosen their purse strings!
Holi day witnesses the sounds of the timki reaching a crescendo and by evening the ritual of burning the stack of wood and dried tree branches symbolizing evil, is done. People offer puran poli, (which is a delicacy for this festival), to this fire as an offering to appease the fire Gods. Traditionally made from flour, horse gram and jaggery, it is now even prepared with Tur dal and sugar for purpose of ease. At some places like the Balaji Temple in Shahapur, this ritual is carried out in the morning and the embers burn for more than one day.
Traditional market areas like Shahapur Khade Bazaar, Maruti galli, Ganpat Galli are strewn with make-shift stalls selling powdered colours of all hues, especially red, yellow, blue, indigo and pink. Saree colour that stains your hands for days is much in demand, but many people are turning to the safer organic dry colours that don’t harm your skin or eyes. Also on display are attractive pieces of pichkaris, mostly in the shape of guns. Tiny balloons that can be filled with coloured water and used for splashing are also on sale. This sale is in preparation for the next day, called dhulwad. Except Shahapur, Vadgaon and Angol, the rest of the city plays with colours on the day after holi. This results in people from the former areas to be confined to their homes. The reverse happens on the fifth day ( Rangpanchami) when these areas celebrate with colours and hence the working people have to leave homes early to avoid being smeared with colours. For years, this dual celebration has continued with no one thinking of unifying the same on one common day. Perhaps that is the unique attribute of our city!
A new trend seen of late is that of stripping the clothes of the passersby and hanging them on the overhead electric wires. Notorious for this phenomenon are areas like Deshmukh Road and SPM Road. The whole city is awash with colours with even women venturing out in groups, knocking on friends’ doors and pulling them out. Many groups move about the city on bikes, shouting and enjoying the anonymity that colour-smeared faces offer. Many houses offer savories like Bhajis, samosas or wadas to friends who visit. By noon, the energy levels dip and people get back home to attempt washing the colour off their skin.
Holi in Belgaum stays true to its motive of burning off evil and merging all sections of society into one cauldron of colors. It also marks the beginning of pre-monsoon showers, heat and dust, heralds the coming of a new year, mangoes and everything cool. The weather is symbolic of India – warm, full of smells – of blooming flowers, sweet food, humid air and lots of smiles to perfect the arch of this wonderful rainbow.
Photo courtesy: Manish Khapare & Shobha Shivakumar
Swatee Jog is a Training and Placement Officer at Bharatesh Global Business School, and her articles have been published in Mint, HT and DNA and she has also authored two books which are being published, one on management and one science book for kids.