The festival of Holi formally ushers in basant or spring in the Hindu calendar and is celebrated across India with colours. The occasion remembers the devotion of Prince Prahlada (a devotee of Vishnu) and his conquest of evil through the burning of Holika, the sister of the demon-king Hiranyakashyap. The end of oppression and tyranny is subtly linked with the beginning of joyous spring. For many, offerings are made to a bonfire on the eve of Holi day; symbolic offerings that see off winter and welcome spring.
Holi is one of India’s most popular festivals and its traditions cut across religious lines, making it as much a part of folk culture as religious scripture. Holi symbolises exuberance, vitality, perhaps even frivolty as formalities and form are forgotten in dashes and sprays of colour. Its celebration has a particularly strong resonance in certain parts of north India, especially in the Braj belt which includes the regions of Mathura and Vrindavan and other places associated with Lord Krishna.
At this time of year Ranthambhore is blooming with flowers of the Flame of the Forest, or Dhak trees (Butea monosperma) a critical ingredient for the colours used to play Holi with. No wonder then that the entire Park and its surroundings are painted in blossoms of red and the forest floor carpeted in colourful petals.
Written by Yusuf Ansari
Photography by Yusuf Ansari