Election colours add to Holi fervour in Braj
The fervour of Holi, festival of colours, reached a feverish pitch on Thursday as election campaigners and leaders of different political parties extended their full support and participation in the celebrations, adding a riot of party colours to the festivities.
In Mathura, cine star and local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Hema Malini joined the Holi celebrations. She also met her supporters and enthusiasts at her residence in Vrindavan on Thursday.
In Agra, Ram Shankar Katheria, BJP member of the outgoing Lok Sabha, opened his house for the celebrations, inviting almost everyone through text, WhatsApp messages and letters. Like Malini, Katheria's candidature too is yet to be announced by the BJP for the coming Lok Sabha polls.
In neighbouring Firozabad, Samajwadi Party (SP) workers and leaders organised a get-together, while the Shiv Pal Yadav-led Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party hosted a seperate bash at a different location.
Mulayam Singh Yadav and others from the Yadav family celebrated Holi in their Sefai village in the Etawah district.
The temples in Vrindavan were packed to the capacity, some overflowing with devotees as clouds of "gulal" enveloped the noisy groups on the streets. The Bankey Bihari temple, the Radha Raman temple and the ISKCON temple witnessed big celebrations.
"The Holi festivities began with the Rang Bharni Ekadashi on March 17. Since then each day we have had functions," said Jagannath Poddar, Director at Friends of Vrindavan, an NGO.
In Mathura, the customary bhang thandai at the Yamuna ghats was in great demand, while community singing programmes too continued to draw large crowds.
Hari Krishan, a local panda, said: "There was lots of fun and excitement in this year's celebrations. The mood is also upbeat due to the coming Lok Sabha elections. Everywhere the discussions are centred around Prime Minister Narendra Modi."
In Agra, Holi celebrations shifted to the community halls in different colonies. "Earlier, we moved around in groups with colours, but now people prefer to play Holi only with their friends and relatives.
"The caste and community barriers, which Holi is supposed to remove are back. Each caste formation is organising its own Holi function for its members. We see less of inter-caste or inter-community participation these days," lamented Sudheir Gupta, a resident of Agra's Vijay Nagar Colony.
Yes, times have indeed changed, observed Goswami Nandan Shrotriya of Sri Mathuradheesh temple. "We now see an increase in liquor consumption instead of the customary bhang thandai. In most Holi gatherings, we now see the active involvement of politicians," Shrotriya said.
A disturbing trend noticed this year was people burning polythene, plastic waste, used tyres, leather shoe cuttings and all kinds of toxic material, said environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.
Meanwhile, social activist Shravan Kumar Singh noted an alarming rise in noise pollution. Despite the ban, loud speakers continued to blare cacophonous music till late at night on the eve of Holi.-IANS