Chapter

The Festival of Holi:

A. Whitney Sanford

in Growing Stories from India

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780813134123
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813135915 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5810/kentucky/9780813134123.003.0006
 The Festival of Holi:

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During the Hindu springtime harvest festival of Holi, devotees celebrate the renewal of social bonds and agricultural fertility because Holi festivities demonstrate the intimate ties between social and agricultural health. This chapter, which is based on the author's experiences in the Braj region of northern India, describes Holi rituals and practices in Baldeo, the center of Balaram pilgrimage. It explores Holi's comedic role in releasing social and agricultural tensions and stabilizing society but argues that defusing tensions do not resolve structural problems, and the resulting stability tends to maintain existing hierarchies. For example, anxieties over the fear of famine, that the earth will not cooperate, tend to lead to stricter controls and narratives (and practices) of domination rather than reciprocity and partnership and so make it more difficult to envision alternatives for food production. Analyzing the social role of stories of control and mastery over the earth provides insight into the reluctance to explore alternative agricultural practices.

Keywords: Holi; Hinduism; gender; ritual; agriculture; comedy; satire; pastoral; India; Braj

Chapter.  13579 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environment

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