Bishop Thomas Dabre exhorts Catholics to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi during Lent
Indian bishop encourages celebration of color festival in joy, freedom
By Antonio Anup Gonsalves, Pune, India, March 6, 2015 (CNA/EWTN News) EXTRACT
With Indians and Hindus celebrating Holi, a spring festival of colors, today, Bishop Thomas Dabre of Poona has encouraged the faithful to participate in the celebration, which is meant to promote spiritual and social harmony.
Holi is a traditionally Hindu holiday that is celebrated culturally among many Indians, including some Christians and Muslims, and which is linked to the full moon. It falls March 6 this year, and is celebrated with everyone throwing brightly dyed powders on each other. It marks the setting aside of differences and grudges in a spirit of reconciliation.
Observing the collective celebratory spirit of Holi which integrates joy, enthusiasm and freedom, Bishop Dabre said the day “gives a message of joy and happiness.”
“It seems to teach us that religion must bring joy and happiness to people,” he told CNA March 6. […]
Hindus begin the celebration with a Holika bonfire the evening prior to Holi, which relates to the myth upon which the festival is based. However, the throwing of color and water which all Indians participate in is a manifestation of joy and friendship across religious lines. […]
What is Holi?
Holi (Sanskrit: होली Holi) is a spring festival, also known as the festival of colours or the festival of love. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia.
It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other regions of the world with significant populations of Hindus or people of Indian origin. The festival has, in recent times, spread to parts of Europe and North America as a spring celebration of love, frolic, and colours.
Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colours, where participants play, chase and colour each other with dry powder and coloured water, with some carrying water guns and coloured water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colours occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings. Groups carry drums and musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. People visit family, friends and foes to throw colours on each other, laugh and chit-chat, then share Holi delicacies, food and drinks. Some drinks are intoxicating. For example, Bhang, an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into drinks and sweets and consumed by many. In the evening, after sobering up, people dress up, visit friends and family.
Holi is celebrated at the approach of vernal equinox, on the Phalguna Purnima (Full Moon). The festival date varies every year, per the Hindu calendar, and typically comes in March, sometimes February in the Gregorian calendar. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair ruptured relationships.
There is a symbolic legend to explain why holi is well celebrated as a colour fest. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu and had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.
In Braj region of India, where Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi) in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna, a Hindu deity. The festivities officially usher in spring, with Holi celebrated as festival of love. There is a symbolic myth behind commemorating Krishna as well. Baby Krishna transitioned into his characteristic dark blue skin colour because a she demon Putana poisoned him with her breast milk. In his youth, Krishna despairs whether fair skinned Radha and other Gopikas (girls) will like him because of his skin colour. His mother, tired of the desperation, asks him to approach Radha and colour her face in any colour he wanted. This he does, and Radha and Krishna became a couple. The playful colouring of the face of Radha has henceforth been commemorated as Holi.
History and rituals
Holi is an ancient Hindu festival with its cultural rituals. It is mentioned in the Puranas, Dasakumara Charita, and by the poet Kālidāsa
during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II. The celebration of Holi is also mentioned in the 7th-century Sanskrit drama, Ratnavali. The festival of Holi caught the fascination of European traders and British colonial staff by the 17th century. Various old editions of Oxford English Dictionary mention it, but with varying, phonetically derived spellings: Houly (1687), Hooly (1698), Huli (1789), Hohlee (1809), Hoolee (1825) and Holi in editions published after 1910.
In south India some worship and make offerings to Kaamadeva, the love god of Indian mythology, on Holi.
Mathura, in the Braj region, is the birthplace of Lord Krishna, and in Vrindavan this day is celebrated with special puja and the traditional custom of worshipping Lord Krishna, here the festival lasts for sixteen days.
In West Bengal region, Holi is known by the name of “Dol Jatra”, “Dol Purnima” or the “Swing Festival”. The festival is celebrated in a dignified manner by placing the icons of Krishna and Radha on a picturesquely decorated palanquin which is then taken round the main streets of the city or the village.
The head of the family observes a fast and prays to Lord Krishna and Agnidev. After all the traditional rituals are over, he smears Krishna’s icon with gulal and offers “bhog” to both Krishna and Agnidev.
The people of Odisha celebrate “Dola” on the day of Holi where the icons of Jagannath replace the icons of Krishna and Radha. Dola Melana, processions of the deities are celebrated in villages and bhoga is offered to the deities.
“Dola yatra” was prevalent even before 1560 much before Holi was started where the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra used to be taken to the “Dolamandapa” (podium in Jagannath temple). People used to offer natural colors known as “abira” to the deities and apply on each other’s faces.
A Hindu festival, Holi has various legends associated with it.
The foremost is the legend of demon King Hiranyakashyap who demanded everybody in his kingdom to worship him but his pious son, Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap wanted his son to be killed. He asked his sister Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap as Holika had a boon which made him immune to fire. Story goes that Prahlad was saved by lord himself for his extreme devotion and evil minded Holika was burnt to ashes, for her boon worked only when she entered the fire alone.
Since that time, people light a bonfire, called Holika on the eve of Holi festival and celebrate the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion to god. Children take special delight in the tradition and this has another legend attached to it. It says that there was once an ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Prithu. She was chased away by children on the day of Holi. Therefore, children are allowed to play pranks at the time of ‘Holika Dahan’.
Some also celebrate the death of evil minded Pootana. The ogress tried to Lord Krishna as an infant by feeding it poisonous milk while executing the plan of Kansa, Krishna’s devil uncle. However, Krishna sucked her blood and brought her end. Some who view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles believe that Pootana represents winter and her death the cessation and end of winter.
In South India, people worship Kaamadeva– the god of love and passion for his extreme sacrifice. According to a legend, Kaamadeva shot his powerful love arrow on Lord Shiva to revoke his interest in the worldly affairs in the interest of the earth. However, Lord Shiva was enraged as he was in deep mediation and opened his third eye which reduced Kaamadeva to ashes. Though, later on the request of Rati, Kaamadeva’s wife, Shiva was pleased to restore him back.
On the eve of Holi, called Chhoti or Small Holi people gather at important crossroads and light huge bonfires, the ceremony is called Holika Dahan. This tradition is also followed in Gujarat and Orissa. To render gratefulness to Agni, god of Fire, gram and stalks from the harvest are also offered to Agni with all humility. Ash left from this bonfire is also considered sacred and people apply it on their foreheads. People believe that the ash protects them from evil forces.
3. Spiritual Meanings for Holi – Sai Baba of India
Holi Dahan – Burning of Desires
Holi heralds the end of winter and the onset of spring. It is also pointed out as an instance of the conquest of base instincts of man and Holi is a celebration of this conquest. The Holi fire connotes this event in Hindu mythology of the conquest of lust by Shiva. For this reason, Shiva is also known by the names Kameswara, Maara Ripu or Madana Ripu indicating one who has conquered carnal desires.
On Holi day, Hindus remember the life of a pure devotee, Prahlad and keep his spiritual ideas alive. In other parts, it is celebrated as the day of Kaama dahan (burning of desires). Madana Utsava is the vernal festival honoring Madana. Madana Trayodashi is the 13th day in the day in the bright half of Chaitra when the festival in honor of Madana is observed. Madana Chaturdashi is the fourteenth day in the bright half of Chaitra honoring Madana.
Lord Krishna teaches detachment
Sri Krishna relates to Arjuna in Bhagavadgita (Ch.2.62 & 63), on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (a place near Delhi) in Mahabharata that:
Dhyayato vishayaan pumsah, vangas teshupa jaayate
Sangaat sanjaayate kaamah, kaamat krodhobhi jaayate
Krodhad bhavati sammohah, sammohat smriti vibramaha
Smriti bhramsaad buddhi nasho, buddhi maashaat pranasyati
While contemplating material and sensual objects, persons become attached to them. Such attachment develops lust and lust generates anger. Anger leads to delusion and delusion to mental bewilderment. When the mind is bewildered, intelligence and discretion is lost. Loss of intelligence and discretion leads to downfall of the person.
Lord Shiva conquers lust – Kaameswara
Another story relates to Shiva who was in a deep trance in his Tapas (penance). Kaama or Manmatha or Madana is the son of Krishna and Rukmini. His wife is Rati. Lord Indra, the king of the Devas wanted a commander to lead their forces in their war with the demon Tarakasura. Taraka was the son of Vajranga and Varangi. He propitiated Lord Bhrahmadeva by a severe penance on the Pariyatra mountain. When Brahma appeared before him, he asked as a boon (vara) that he should not he killed by anyone other than a seven day old child. Brahma granted him the boon.
Misusing this boon, Taraka began to oppress the gods. They were obliged to approach Brahma for help to destroy Taraka. Brahma told the devas that only an offspring of Shiva could destroy him. For this they sought the help of Kaama or Maara or Manmatha, the god of love in Hindu mythology to Shiva to drag him out of his meditation and generate an issue with Parvati. This alone could vanquish Tarakasura. Kaama agreed to undertake this mission.
Maara shot his arrows at Shiva but he was not perturbed from his trance. Maara shot a powerful arrow in a final effort to perturb Shiva. At this, Shiva was offended and opened only his third eye (Phaala Netra) and Maara was burnt and turned to ashes instantly. Subsequently, at the beseechment of Rati and the devas, Shiva restored him from the ashes in the form of Pradyumna. His intimate friend is Vasanta or the spring. His son is Aniruddha. He is armed with a bow and arrows, the bow string being a line of bees and the arrows being a string of flowers of five different plants. Shiva and Parvati created Kaartikeya to destroy Tarakasura. Later, Kartikeya was born and slew the demon Taraka on the seventh day of his birth.
Ref: V. S. Apte: The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary. 2nd Ed. Pub.by Motilal Banarsidas, 1988.
4. History of Holi: http://www.holifestival.org/history-of-holi.html
5. Rituals of Holi: http://www.holifestival.org/rituals-of-holi.html
6. Significance of Holi: http://www.holifestival.org/significance-of-holi.html
7. Tradition of Holi: http://www.holifestival.org/tradition-of-holi.html
8. Holi Pooja process: http://www.holifestival.org/holi-pooja-process.html
9. Legend of Radha-Krishna: http://www.holifestival.org/legend-radha-krishna.html
10. Legend of Kaamadeva: http://www.holifestival.org/legend-kaamadeva.html
11. Bhang recipes: http://www.holifestival.org/bhang-recipes.html
12. Holi in Hinduism: http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/holidays/holi.htm
We see that the festival of Holi is inextricably woven into the fabric of Hindu mythology and in some of its aspects it incorporates the worship of Hindu deities.
Why would any Catholic want to celebrate Holi?
View the following images of Holi and then decide if you as a Catholic would like to join in Holi festivities:
Many images of Holi celebrations were just too vulgar to be included in this file.
Holi revelers, even women folk, consume bhang, an intoxicating concoction that uses cannabis or marijuana.
It is shocking that Bishop Thomas Dabre asks Catholics to participate in any form of Holi revelry.
And that too during the liturgical season of Lent.
The Catholic Church in India is being systematically Hinduised under the pretext of “Indianisation” and inculturation. Taking the lead are the very priests and Bishops in whom we repose our trust to safeguard our faith and catechize us; instead of doing so, they use every opportunity they find to exhort us to inculcate the philosophies, adopt the symbols, and follow the rituals and rites of pagan religions.
The St Pauls New Community Bible 2008 that was imposed on us with its “contextualized” commentaries and illustrations is one such blatant attempt (see the twenty-six reports on the New Community Bible series at this ministry’s web site). Following media-reported protests from Catholics as well as our appeals to Rome, the New Community Bible was pulled for revision but the First Revised Edition 2011 is still not error-free and is still unacceptable to us.
See NEW COMMUNITY BIBLE 25-REVISED EDITION NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CATHOLICS
Bishop Thomas Dabre, then Chairman of the Doctrinal Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, provided the Nihil Obstat for the 2008 edition and the Imprimatur for the 2011 revised edition.
Catholic lawyer and activist questioned the Cardinal Archbishop of Bombay about Bishop Thomas Dabre’s exhorting Catholics to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi during the penitential season of Lent:
Subject: Fw: YOUR EMINENCE HAS THE CHURCH CHANGED ITS POSITION ON THE RESTRICTIONS DURING LENT?
Date: Sun, 8 Mar 2015 16:11:17 +0000
YOUR EMINENCE CARDINAL OSWALD GRACIAS,
I WAS ADVISED BY MANY JESUIT PRIESTS IN SCHOOL THAT WE ARE IN THE PERIOD OF LENT AND HENCE WE SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE IN ANY CELEBRATIONS AS WE SHOULD BE FASTING AND DOING GOOD DEEDS DURING LENT.
HAS THE CHURCH CHANGED ITS POSITION ON THE RESTRICTIONS DURING THE PERIOD OF LENT?
YOUR EMINENCE COULD YOU PLEASE ADVICE ME IF WHAT BISHOP DABRE SAYS IS TRUE, SO I TOO CAN CELEBRATE DURING LENT, I WAS NOT AWARE THAT THE CHURCH HAS CHANGED ITS POSITION ON LENT OR IF I WAS MISINFORMED BY THE JESUIT PRIESTS.
He also communicated the Catholic News Agency report (see page 1) to his mailing list:
Subject: IS IT JUSTIFIABLE FOR A BISHOP TO ENCOURAGE THE CELEBRATION OF HOLI DURING LENT?
We await the responses of Cardinal Oswald Gracias and others.
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Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India