Lucknow, March 27 (IANS) For a state that saw 34 small and big communal riots in the last one year, Hindus and Muslims came together in this Uttar Pradesh capital Wednesday to celebrate Holi.
The octagenarian Mohd Ahmad Khan, residing in Lucknow’s old city, is a glaring example of how religion holds no bar for celebrating the happiness and traditions of others.
Khan not only partakes in the Holi festivities as the head of the Aminabad Holi Mahotsava Sangh but also lights up the traditional Holika or holy fire in Aminabad, a busy thoroughfare in the capital.
Talking to IANS, the ageing Khan recalled how this tradition of a Holi “celebrated by all” came into being at the start of the 20th century, thanks mainly to his freedom fighter father Basheer Khan.
Khan senior asked the traders and his neighbours to enjoy the festival in the spirit of communal harmony.
Ever since, Khan junior says, generations of people in the locality have played Holi together.
Adding to the festivities is the ‘flower decoration’ competition that began in 1978 and has since become a craze for youngsters.
Dinesh Ahuja, one of the organisers of the competition, told IANS that not only was it a symbol of love and affection for every one’s traditions, it also “made the society close knit in today’s testing times”.
Omar, a middle-aged trader at Akbari Gate, is equally ecstatic about the festival of colours.
His participation, his friends say, is unparalleled. He not only enjoys the festival “to the hilt” but also showers everyone passing through the historic gate with water, colour and flower petals.
At the ‘holi mandap’ in front of the Haji Baraji mosque in Udaiganj, Muslim pontiffs also take part in Holi festival.
“This has been our way of playing Holi for years,” says Syed Abbas, a resident.
Some people of the area distribute ‘sharbat’ to Holi revellers. Others play Shehnai on the occasion, he says.
In other parts of the state capital too Holi reminisced of old times.
The Khatu Shyam temple on the banks of the river Gomti near New Hyderabad Wednesday staged a ‘tesu ke phool ki holi’ where people only used dry colour and flowers to smear each other.
In Bareilly, a Ram Leela is held every Holi.
“This is one of the strange things to happen on Holi. What is heartening is that many people from other religions also participate in the celebrations,” said Sanjay Sharma, a resident.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at [email protected])