PHAGWA AT BLAIRMONT
Our dear father told us about Phagwa in lessons at Blairmont Hindi School. Celebrating the triumph of the godly son Prahalad over his father the demon King Hiranyakashyipu, it was also a celebration of the spring harvest festival at Phaalgun, the last month of the Hindu year.
Phagwa had a special meaning for us. It was a time when everyone put aside their cares and threw themselves into playing Phagwa. For days there was merrymaking, non stop. The whole village seemed like one big happy family.
Early Phagwa morning before we go to Mandir the old lady comes. She kisses all of us, sprinkles abeer -magenta coloured water on us, takes out a phial of attar -perfumed oil, puts a touch on the back of our hands, then says, “My children, I wish you all a very Happy Phagwa. I don’t know if I will live to see another Phagwa” Old people always say that. It has deep meaning.
The grown ups in a chowtal group, singing phagwa songs, go from house to house, street to street. Everywhere a big welcome awaits you. One group comes down the road from Rosignol. You hear the drums beating, and as they get nearer you hear the fast tingling, jingling, clanking sounds of jhaanj -brass cymbals, each person with a pair of jhaanj making music. They get near to your house and the sound gets louder. You hear the singing, in between loud hails of ‘Holi Khele Raghubeer, Holi Khele Raghubeer ‘. They reach home and you greet them with a drenching of abeer, big embraces and sweet drinks.
They then settle down to serious chowtal singing I watch at first, but as the singing goes on, I get into the spirit of it, pick up key words and , I chime in. When the chorus comes I give it all I’ve got, singing my heart out. I feel great.
A contest is exciting. The best singers in two groups sit opposite each other. One starts off with a chowpai -verse; the rest join in; the other side takes it up, till both groups sing themselves to a frenzy. Then the group opposite takes turn to lead. After a good hour or so of hard singing it is breaktime. Prasad is served -blessed food made with ghee, flour, sugar and milk. There is also water melon, bananas, sweet drinks, often a meal of rice daal, aloo and bara.
After good wishes we set off for the next house singing. Every house is visited from Rampur to Cotton Tree. A house not visited that day would be called on the next day. Phagwa lasted nearly a week. It was real bliss. It was fun to see our parents enjoying themselves and we too joined in the fun.
Happy Phagwah to all my brother and sisters of the Hindu Religion March 8, 2012
PHAGWA AT BLAIRMONT