Holi brought people of all faiths together in a celebration of spring, love and colours
or decades, the Hindu community across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been celebrating Holi with reverence and contagious enthusiasm.
This year, too, members of the Peshawar-based Hindu community joined hands with people of other faiths, to celebrate the ancient festival of colours, love and spring.
Ravish Kumar, a Peshawar resident, said that Hindu people hosted celebrations and festivals round the year but Diwali (the festival of lights) and Holi (the festival of colours) were of special significance since they epitomised the spirit of love and harmony.
“The festival is a medley of religiosity and culture celebrated to forget and forgive, a day to renew relations and forget past differences,” said Kumar. “Every year, the Holi festival serves as a call for new beginnings, it coincides with the spring harvest and symbolises a reawakening of sorts,” he noted. “In Peshawar, this festival has the power to bring disparate people together,” he added.
Peshawar has long been home to groups and communities that speak various languages and practice different religious rites and traditions. People of the city have been living together in peace and harmony for centuries.
Even when militants were trying to sabotage this diversity and create rifts in the population, the citizens stuck together. This year, Holi festivities felt like an ode to all the different people who make up Peshawar; their undying love for feasts and their resilience in the face of violence. It felt befitting that the City of Flowers embraced the spring festival with open arms.
Earlier, cultural and religious festivals used to be celebrated by all the city communities under the banner of their welfare bodies but last year, the provincial government took over the responsibility to organise such events.
Under this initiative, the Religious and Minority Affairs Department arranged a Happy Holi festival in Peshawar that was attended by members of the Hindu community from across the KP including the merged tribal districts as well as members of other faiths. The event was held at a hall on March 14.
The participants performed puja (prayers), and young students donned traditional attire to perform skits and folk dances. The venue was adorned with tinsel, decorations and vibrant hand-drawn rangolis.
This year, Holi festivities felt like an ode to all the different people who inhabit Peshawar; their undying love for feasts and their resilience in the face of violence. It felt befitting that the City of Flowers embraced the spring festival with open arms.
Children sang songs, recited hymns and presented a skit based on two religious figures –Lord Krishna and Radha - that received a standing ovation from the audience.
Barrister Feroz Jamal Shah Kakakhel, the caretaker minister for minority affairs, was the chief guest at the ceremony. Auqaf and Minority Affairs Secretary Shahid Sohail Khan chaired the event. Former MPAs Wilson Wazir and Sardar Ranjeet Singh also attended the celebration.
Inaugurating the event, the caretaker minister said that minority citizens had played a pivotal role in the development and prosperity of the province and the country, adding that the issues confronted by minorities would be resolved.
He said that Holi was about sharing pleasant moments with others. “Such events bring us together and should be a symbol of peace, harmony and social cohesion,” said Kakakhel. The minister also said that the role of minorities in the growth of the country could not be downplayed. “I’m very pleased to participate in the Holi festival of Hindu community,” said the minister.
Those in attendance said that Holi was not just a festival but also represented a resolve to celebrate community life immersed in sacrifice, love and respect for beliefs and faiths of others.
Methun Prethem, a boy, told The News on Sunday that Holi was a three-day festival commemorating the victory of good over evil. During the festival, people get together to enjoy food and delicacies especially prepared for the event.
“An age-old practice is to distribute sweets among relatives and neighbours. We share our sweets and desserts with our Muslim brethren. It has been like this for centuries,” said Pretham.
“Holi brings us close to one another. Such events are needed if we want to build a pluralistic society,” said Rohit Kumar, the coordinator of the local chapter of the Pakistan Hindu Council. “Festivals serve the purpose of tolerance, peace and should promote interfaith harmony,” he stated.
“The practice of throwing colours symbolises the triumph of good over evil. We also offer prayers for prosperity and peace on the auspicious occasion of Holi. Together, we hope for a world that is free from prejudice, and hatred,” said Vinad Kumar, an elderly itizen.
The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist. He mostly writes on art, culture, education, youth and minorities. He tweets Shinwar-9