Holi During Mughal Era

Holi, according to Pandits and learned scholars of the Braj area “is the time to abandon, the artificial barriers, class differences, snobbish or elitist tendencies and mix around”. Holi, also called as Phag, is time for folk dances, songs and rasia dangals, a form of poetry peculiar to this region.

But, now the festival of ‘colours’ sees ‘no mixing’ as the level of patience is declining and people are becoming “intolerant”.

Agra being a quintessential Mughal city, can not overlook the rich tradition of celebrations set by Akbar and Jahangir.

Both Mughal emperors indulged in the merriment and showered gulab and colours on the revellers. Musical mehfils were held all night and community bhang drinking was the order of the day.

During the Shahjahani tenure of Delhi, Holi was known as Eid-e-Gulabi (Pink Eid) or Aab-e-Pashi (Shower of Colourful Flowers), and truly so owing to its carnival spirit and hysterical rejoicing for both Hindus and Muslims.

Carnival of Holi lasted for days during the Mughal rule during which people, irrespective of religious or social distinctions, forgot their restraints. The poorest of the poor threw colour on the emperor. 

Holi, the Hindu festival typically falls during the month of March and symbolizes fertility and spring harvests. This year, the Holi festival falls on March 27th.

The Emperor Akbar, one of the greatest rulers of the subcontinent (ruled from 1556-1605) advocated religious tolerance. The peace and well-being of the empire depended on maintaining a balance between the interests of the Hindu majority and those of the Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, Jain, Sikh  and other religions. One of Akbar’s greatest political accomplishments was to abolish the poll tax levied on non-Muslims. He also won over the rulers of the Hindu Rajput kingdoms by marrying their daughters into his family. Akbar himself married Princess Manmati; she was the daughter of Raja Bhagwandas of Amber (today Jaipur).

Akbar and Manmanti’s son Jahangir wrote in his memoirs about this religious festival: 

‘Their day is Holi, which in their belief is the last day of the year. This day falls in the month of Isfandarmudh, when the sun is in Pisces. On the eve of this day they light fires in all the lanes and streets. When it is daylight they spray powder on each other’s heads and faces for one watch and create an amazing uproar. After that, they wash themselves, put their clothes on, and go to gardens and fields. Since it is an established custom of among the Hindus to burn their dead, the lighting of fires on the last night of the year s a metaphor for burning the old year as though it were a corpse.’ – from the Jahangirnama

Holi is not only about colours and sweets. It reminds of the divine and eternal love of Krishna and Radha. It also reminds one of Narashima, Prahlada and Hiranyakashyapa and thus the fact that ‘Truth and Humanity are invincible forces in the Universe’.

One thought on “Holi During Mughal Era

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s