Welcome, Mr Prime Minister, to celebrate Holi By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Welcome, Mr Prime Minister, to celebrate Holi
By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
Member of National Assembly (PMLN)
Patron-in-chief, Pakistan Hindu Council

Prime Minister of Pakistan for the first time in the history is participating in the Holi festival which the Hindu community acknowledges as a remarkable step towards promotion of peace, prosperity and interfaith harmony in the society. Last time, honorable prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, on the occasion of Diwali festival, has shown his interest to participate in the Holi festival so that Hindu community could throw “colors of love” to him. The Holi festival, which is celebrated at the start of spring season, is considered as largest religious festival after the Diwali in Hinduism, and also known as Festival of Colors or Festival of Love.

Holi, which is traditionally observed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius since hundreds of years, has also become popular as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colors in other parts of the world including South Africa, and the West. According to the ancient Hinduism, Holi reminds the victory of good over evil. The celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire where people jointly perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire with a pray that their internal evil should also be burned as the bonfire starts. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other to celebrate happiness. The Holi festival also has a cultural significance among various Hindu traditions.

There is also an interesting story behind the Holika bonfire. The Hindu holy book of Bhagavata Purana narrates that King Hiranyakashipu was the ruler of demonic Asuras, who was granted five special powers and due to this, he declared himself as god, and demanded the public to worship him. His own son, Prahlada, was devoted to Vishnu and revolted against his cruel father. Vishnu appeared as an “avatar” to practically help his devotee in the struggle while Holika, the sister of King Hiranyakashipu and aunt of Prahlada, was also part of evil powers. Holika was burnt to death with the help of Vishnu and thus, the Holika bonfire reminds this great victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, and his evil aunt, Holika.

The story also gives us lesson for success in life that Faith in God must be paramount, Devotion could be practiced at any age, God is omnipresent, God will always prevail, God saves his devotees, and finally, Evil will be punished no matter how strong is.

The second most important legend associated with Holi is to celebrate Radha’s divine love for Krishna which is also an important reason for ‘Holi’ celebrations. It is believed that Krishna was disappointed over his dark complexion while Radha was so fair. One day, his mother Yashoda suggested smearing colors on Radha’s face and changing her complexion to any color he wanted. Krishna liked the idea and thus, the festival of colors is introduced. To celebrate this incident of joy, Hindu community throws colors to each other, special foods like Kachori, Sweets are prepared, all people wear white or colorful dresses, and Rangoli, a special colorful portion is arranged in the homes.

Pakistani Hindu community, having 50% votes, dominates the Non-Muslim minority vote bank. According to a recent report issued by Election Commission of Pakistan, majority of Hindus are residing in the Sindh province. The province is considered as the land of saints where Muslims and Hindus are living peacefully since long time. On the occasion of partition in 1947, flames of hatred were rising on both sides of India and Pakistan but Sindh was quite calm and peaceful. Quaid-e-Azam ‘s speech to the constitutional assembly in which he appealed the Non-Muslims to not migrate, attracted Hindu community who decided to make newly-born Pakistan their motherland. Constitution of Pakistan also guarantees to provide religious freedom to all citizens. Unconditional love to the motherland is part of Hindu religion and this is the reason that there is no second opinion about the patriotism of Pakistani Hindus.

I myself represent Tharparkar in the Parliament, and could say with full confidence that tolerance and religious harmony is integral part of Sindh society, where both Hindus and Muslims are living together like brothers with active participation in the religious festivals of each other. Although the evil powers of extremism are also trying to increase their influence throughout the country and the Hindu community is facing lot of problems such as, forced conversions, kidnappings, attacks on temples and holy places, and hate curriculum, but I believe that demonstration of mutual respect and brotherhood on such occasions like Holi could be beneficial to defeat evil by presenting pluralism and the overall tolerant and peace-loving culture of Pakistan. Operation Zarb-eAzab, Radd ul Fassad, Karachi Rangers Operation and recently-held successful ECO Conference prove that evil has to defeat at any cost.

To ensure active participation of poor and needy people on the occasion of Holi, Pakistan Hindu Council used to arrange combined marriages programme since last 9 years with the collaboration of Pakistan Bait ul Mal, Edhi Foundation and other welfare organizations on annual basis and this year on March 19, one hundred Hindu couples will tie the knot in a decent and respectful way. Governor Sindh Mohammad Zubair along with his family will also participate while President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are also invited to grace the ceremony. On the occasion, Raksha-distribution ceremony for poor deserving Hindu citizens will also be held, while Sewing Machines will be distributed among needy women. This is the true spirit behind the celebration of Holi festival.

I believe that participation of PM Nawaz Sharif to celebrate Holi festival proves that he is prime minister of entire country. On the other hand, patriotic Hindu community is also looking forward to throw colors of love, respect, harmony, and loyalty to their beloved Prime Minister so that he could keep moving Pakistan towards peace and prosperity. Current National Assembly also has this honor to pass my resolution for declaring Holi as official holiday and the good wishes being expressed by Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Deputy Speaker Mutaza Javed Abbasi are also very much valuable in terms that peace loving societies always promote positive values.

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Pakistan Observer (May 24, 2017)