I have celebrated two Holi’s in India with some of the most beautiful people I have met. My first Holi- colors flying everywhere, dancing under a rain shower to Bhangra music with a large group of laughing, exuberant people from various states in India and various countries around the world. Holi, in its array of colors has many stories to share, and my thoughts turn to many possibilities and interpretations of its message. Holi- what is it really?
Those of us in the West who are familiar with Holi, even vaguely so, think of a rainbow of colors, the Indian version of Spain’s tomato fight, La Tomatina. The throwing of colors, as fun as it is (an understatement!), is only one aspect of the festival.
The story of Holi stretches back throughout the centuries to the Hindu story of Prahlad, the son of the demon king, Hiranyakashyap, and Holika, Hiranyakashyap’s demoness sister. For refusing to worship his father and instead revering Lord Vishnu, Holika determines that Prahlad must die, and since she is supposed to be able to withstand the vicious flames of a fire, she sits into a bonfire with Prahlad. However, little to her knowledge, her protection from fire only works when she enters a fire alone, and Prahlad, chanting the name of Lord Naarayana (Lord Vishnu), a Supreme God, is saved while Holika is consumed by the flames. Today, Hindus remember this story with the building of bonfires in the street and the offering of their prayers.
The story and purpose of these rituals and the celebration as a whole varies from state to state in India but the underlying purpose is the same: celebrating the triumph of good over evil.
A strong point that is often made about world religions is that their underlying messages are the same, creating unity even in their diversity. What is not so often reflected upon is that medical and healing systems are very much the same in this respect. What is the purpose? The triumph of “good” (health) over “evil” (disease).
“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” –Modern Hippocratic Oath
There are many medical and healing systems without a set definition but which have intuitively grasped for the same sort of purpose. At the roots of any medical or healing system is the foundational element and purpose of care. For instance, the classical texts of Ayurveda written by ancient sages clearly define in detail the required nature of a vaidya, or doctor of Ayurved, including but not limited to, demonstrating the utmost care for the good of the patient.
Physical balance connotes mental balance which connotes emotional balance. With doctors and practitioners demonstrating a profound sense of care, they are instilling this very view, this very actualization of health and its fundamental purpose, into the wellbeing of their patients. As Ayurved propones, the universe repeats itself on every level. In unity, in the diversity and many shades and colors of medical science and healing, we can find understanding and through collaboration triumph,find the triumph of good.
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”
Happy Holi! Get messy!