Wednesday, April 2, 2008
High-density optical disc
MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), and VC-1
25 GB (single layer)
50 GB (dual layer)
405 nm laser, 1x@36 Mbit/s & 2x@72 Mbit/s & 4x@144 Mbit/s & 6x@216 Mbit/s & 12x@432 Mbit/s
Blu-ray Disc Association
and PlayStation 3 games
Blu-ray Disc (also known as Blu-ray or BD) is an optical disc storage media format. Its main uses are high-definition video and data storage. The disc has the same dimensions as a standard DVD or CD.
The name Blu-ray Disc is derived from the blue-violet laser used to read and write this type of disc. Because of its shorter wavelength (405 nm), substantially more data can be stored on a Blu-ray Disc than on the DVD format, which uses a red (650 nm) laser. A dual layer Blu-ray Disc can store 50 GB, almost six times the capacity of a dual layer DVD.
Blu-ray Disc was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, a group of companies representing consumer electronics, computer hardware, and motion picture production. The standard is covered by several patents belonging to different companies. As of March 2007, a joint licensing agreement for all the relevant patents had not yet been finalized.
As of February 19, 2008, more than 450 Blu-ray Disc titles have been released in the United States, and more than 250 in Japan.
During the high definition optical disc format war, Blu-ray Disc competed with the HD DVD format. On February 19, 2008, Toshiba — the main company supporting HD DVD — announced it would no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders, leading almost all other HD DVD supporters to follow suit.
In 1998, commercial HDTV sets began to appear in the consumer market; however, there was no commonly accepted, inexpensive way to record or play HD content. In fact, there was no medium with the storage required to accommodate HD codecs, except JVC's Digital VHS and Sony's HDCAM. Nevertheless, it was well known that using lasers with shorter wavelengths would enable optical storage with higher density. When Shuji Nakamura invented practical blue laser diodes, it was a sensation, although a lengthy patent lawsuit delayed commercial introduction
Sony started two projects applying the new diodes: UDO (Ultra Density Optical) and DVR Blue (together with Pioneer), a format of rewritable discs which would eventually become Blu-ray Disc (more specifically, BD-RE). The core technologies of the formats are essentially similar.
The first DVR Blue prototypes were unveiled at the CEATEC exhibition in October 2000. Because the Blu-ray Disc standard places the data recording layer close to the surface of the disc, early discs were susceptible to contamination and scratches and had to be enclosed in plastic cartridges for protection. In February 2002, the project was officially announced as Blu-ray, and the Blu-ray Disc Association was founded by the nine initial members.
The first consumer devices were in stores on April 10, 2003. This device was the Sony BDZ-S77; a BD-RE recorder that was made available only in Japan. The recommended price was US$3800; however, there was no standard for pre-recorded video and no movies were released for this player. The Blu-ray Disc standard was still years away, since a new and secure DRM system was needed before Hollywood studios would accept it, not wanting to repeat the failure of the Content Scramble System for DVDs.
Blu-ray Disc format finalized
The Blu-ray Disc physical specifications were finished in 2004. In January 2005, TDK announced that they had developed a hard coating polymer for Blu-ray Discs. The cartridges, no longer necessary, were scrapped. The BD-ROM specifications were finalized in early 2006. AACS LA, a consortium founded in 2004, had been developing the DRM platform that could be used to securely distribute movies to consumers. However, the final AACS standard was delayed, and then delayed again when an important member of the Blu-ray Disc group voiced concerns. At the request of the initial hardware manufacturers, including Toshiba, Pioneer and Samsung, an interim standard was published which did not include some features, like managed copy.
Launch and Sales developments
The first BD-ROM players were shipped in the middle of June 2006, though HD DVD players beat them in the race to the market by a few months.
The first Blu-ray Disc titles were released on June 20, 2006. The earliest releases used MPEG-2 video compression, the same method used on DVDs. The first releases using the newer VC-1 and AVC codecs were introduced in September 2006. The first movies using dual layer discs (50 GB) were introduced in October 2006.
The first mass-market Blu-ray Disc rewritable drive for the PC was the BWU-100A, released by Sony on July 18, 2006. It recorded both single and dual layer BD-R as well as BD-RE discs and had a suggested retail price of US$699.
Competition from HD DVD
The DVD Forum (which was chaired by Toshiba) was deeply split over whether to develop the more expensive blue laser technology or not. In March 2002, the forum voted to approve a proposal endorsed by Warner Bros. and other motion picture studios that involved compressing HD content onto dual-layer DVD-9 discs. In spite of this decision, however, the DVD Forum's Steering Committee announced in April that it was pursuing its own blue-laser high-definition solution. In August, Toshiba and NEC announced their competing standard Advanced Optical Disc. It was finally adopted by the DVD Forum and renamed HD DVD the next year, after being voted down twice by Blu-ray Disc Association members, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to make preliminary investigations into the situation.
HD DVD had a head start in the high definition video market and Blu-ray Disc sales were slow at first. The first Blu-ray Disc player was perceived as expensive and buggy, and there were few titles available. This changed when PlayStation 3 launched, since every PS3 unit also functioned as a Blu-ray Disc player. By January 2007, Blu-ray discs had outsold HD DVDs, and during the first three quarters of 2007, BD outsold HD DVDs by about two to one.
Some analysts believe that Sony's PlayStation 3 video game console played an important role in the format war, believing it acted as a catalyst for Blu-ray Disc, as the PlayStation 3 used a Blu-ray Disc drive as its primary information storage medium. They also credited Sony's more thorough and influential marketing campaign. More recently several studios have cited Blu-ray Disc's adoption of the BD+ anti-copying system as the reason they supported Blu-ray Disc over HD DVD.
End of the format war
In January 2008, a day before CES 2008, Warner Brothers, the only major studio still releasing movies in both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc format, announced it would release only in Blu-ray Disc after May 2008. This effectively included other studios which came under the Warner umbrella, such as New Line Cinema and HBO, though in Europe HBO distribution partner the BBC announced it would, while keeping an eye on market forces, continue to release product on both formats. This led to a chain reaction in the industry, including major US retailers such as Wal-Mart dropping HD DVD in their stores. A major European retailer, Woolworths, dropped HD DVD from its inventory. Netflix, the major online DVD rental site, said it would no longer stock new HD DVDs. Following these new developments, on 19 February 2008, Toshiba announced it would be ending production of HD DVD devices, allowing Blu-ray Disc to become the industry standard for high-density optical disks. Universal Studios, the sole major movie studio to back HD DVD since inception, shortly after Toshiba's announcement, said "while Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray Disc." Paramount Studios, which started releasing movies only in HD DVD format during late 2007, also said it would start releasing in Blu-ray Disc. With this, all major Hollywood studios now support Blu-ray.
Former HD DVD supporter Microsoft has stated that they are not currently pursuing a Blu-ray Disc drive for the Xbox 360.
Disc structure :
Laser and optics
Blu-ray Disc uses a "blue" (technically violet) laser operating at a wavelength of 405 nm to read and write data. Conventional DVDs and CDs use red and near infrared lasers at 650 nm and 780 nm respectively.
The blue-violet laser's shorter wavelength makes it possible to store more information on a 12 cm CD/DVD sized disc. The minimum "spot size" on which a laser can be focused is limited by diffraction, and depends on the wavelength of the light and the numerical aperture of the lens used to focus it. By decreasing the wavelength, increasing the numerical aperture from 0.60 to 0.85 and making the cover layer thinner to avoid unwanted optical effects, the laser beam can be focused to a smaller spot. This allows more information to be stored in the same area. In addition to the optical improvements, Blu-ray Discs feature improvements in data encoding that further increase the capacity.
Because the Blu-ray Disc data layer is closer to the surface of the disc, compared to the DVD standard, it was at first more vulnerable to scratches. The first discs were housed in cartridges for protection. Advances in polymer technology eventually made the cartridges unnecessary.
TDK was the first company to develop a working scratch protection coating for Blu-ray Discs. It was named Durabis. In addition, both Sony and Panasonic's replication methods include proprietary hard-coat technologies. Sony's rewritable media are sprayed with a scratch-resistant and antistatic coating. Verbatim's recordable and rewritable Blu-ray Disc discs use their own proprietary hard-coat technology called ScratchGuard.
Drive speed Data rate Write time for Blu-ray Disc (minutes)
Single Layer Dual Layer
1X 36 4.5 90 180
2X 72 9 45 90
4X 144 18 23 45
6X 216 27 15 30
8X* 288 36 12 23
12X* 432 54 8 15
Codecs are compression schemes that store audio and video more efficiently, either giving longer play time or higher quality per megabyte. There are both lossy and lossless compression techniques.
The BD-ROM specification mandates certain codec compatibilities for both hardware decoders (players) and the movie-software (content). For video, all players are required to support MPEG-2, H.264/AVC, and SMPTE VC-1. MPEG-2 is the codec used on regular DVDs, which allows backwards compatibility. H.264/AVC was developed by MPEG and VCEG as a modern successor of MPEG-4. VC-1 is another MPEG-4 derivative codec mostly developed by Microsoft. BD-ROM titles with video must store video using one of the three mandatory codecs. Multiple codecs on a single title are allowed.
The choice of codecs affects the producer's licensing/royalty costs, as well as the title's maximum runtime, due to differences in compression efficiency. Discs encoded in MPEG-2 video typically limit content producers to around two hours of high-definition content on a single-layer (25 GB) BD-ROM. The more advanced video codecs (VC-1 and H.264) typically achieve a video runtime twice that of MPEG-2, with comparable quality.
MPEG-2 was used by many studios including Paramount Pictures (which suprisingly used the efficient VC-1 codec for HD DVD releases) for the first series of Blu-ray discs that were launched throughout 2006. Modern releases are now often encoded in either H.264/AVC or VC-1 allowing film studios to place all content on one disc reducing costs and improving ease of use, using these codecs will also free many GB of space for storage of bonus content in HD (1080i/p) as opposed to the SD (480i/p) typically used for most titles. Some studios (such as Warner Bros.) have released bonus content on discs encoded in a different codec than the main feature title, for example the Blu-ray release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone uses VC-1 for the feature film and MPEG-2 for bonus content (presumably because it is simply ported from the DVD release).
For audio, BD-ROM players are required to support Dolby Digital AC-3, DTS, and linear PCM. Players may optionally support Dolby Digital Plus, and lossless formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD. BD-ROM titles must use one of the mandatory schemes for the primary soundtrack. A secondary audiotrack, if present, may use any of the mandatory or optional codecs.
For users recording digital television programming, the recordable Blu-ray Disc standard's datarate of 54 Mbit/s is more than adequate to record high-definition broadcasts from any source (IPTV, cable/satellite, or terrestrial). For Blu-ray Disc movies the maximum transfer rate is 48 Mbit/s (1.5x) (both audio and video payloads together), of which a maximum of 40 Mbit/s can be dedicated to video data. This compares favorably to the maximum of 30.24 Mbit/s in HD DVD movies for audio and video data.
Java software support
At the 2005 JavaOne trade show, it was announced that Sun Microsystems' Java cross-platform software environment would be included in all Blu-ray Disc players as a mandatory part of the standard. Java is used to implement interactive menus on Blu-ray Discs, as opposed to the method used on DVD video discs, which uses pre-rendered MPEG segments and selectable subtitle pictures, which is considerably more primitive and less seamless. Java creator James Gosling, at the conference, suggested that the inclusion of a Java Virtual Machine as well as network connectivity in some BD devices will allow updates to Blu-ray Discs via the Internet, adding content such as additional subtitle languages and promotional features that are not included on the disc at pressing time. This Java Version is called BD-J and is a subset of the Globally Executable MHP (GEM) standard. GEM is the world-wide version of the Multimedia Home Platform standard.
Blu-ray Discs may be encoded with a region code, intended to restrict the area of the world in which they can be played, similar in principle to the DVD region codes, although the used geographical regions differ. Blu-ray Disc players sold in a certain region may only play discs encoded for that region. The purpose of this system is to allow motion picture studios to control the various aspects of a release (including content, date, and, in particular, price) according to the region. Discs may also be produced without region coding, so they can be played on all devices.
This arrangement places the countries of the major Blu-ray manufacturers (Japan, Korea, Malaysia) in the same region as the U.S., thus ensuring early releases of U.S. content to those markets. As of early 2008, about two-thirds of all released discs were region-free.
The region selection has been criticized for being US-centric like the previous DVD region code system. In the new system, the US is placed in region A, while regions B and C are used for countries that often experience significant localization delays before titles are released officially (Europe, African countries, Russia, China, etc.). However, the opposite is also true. Some new titles, such as the Harry Potter series, The Simpsons Movie, and Spider-Man Trilogy are released in Europe before the US. Region coding makes importing difficult, unless the buyer has a device that can play discs formatted for the regions they are importing from. In response to the original DVD region system, Europe, Australia, and other markets which had strong demand for region 1 movies, multi-region or region-free players became dominant.
Digital rights management (DRM)
The Blu-ray Disc format employs several layers of digital rights management.
AACS decryption process
Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is a standard for content distribution and digital rights management. It is developed by AS Licensing Administrator, LLC (AACS LA), a consortium that includes Disney, Intel, Microsoft, Matsushita (Panasonic), Warner Bros., IBM, Toshiba and Sony.
Since appearing in devices in 2006, several successful attacks have been made on the format. The first known attack relied on the trusted client problem. In addition, decryption keys have been extracted from a weakly protected player (WinDVD). However, even though some AACS cryptographic keys have been compromised, new releases will use new, uncompromised keys.
BD+ was developed by Cryptography Research Inc. and is based on their concept of Self-Protecting Digital Content. BD+ is effectively a small virtual machine embedded in authorized players. It allows content providers to include executable programs on Blu-ray Discs. Such programs can:
•examine the host environment, to see if the player has been tampered with. Every licensed playback device manufacturer must provide the BD+ licensing authority with memory footprints that identify their devices.
•verify that the player's keys have not been changed.
•execute native code, possibly to patch an otherwise insecure system.
•transform the audio and video output. Parts of the content will not be viewable without letting the BD+-program unscramble it.
If a playback device manufacturer finds that its devices have been hacked, it can potentially release BD+-code that detects and circumvents the vulnerability. These programs can then be included in all new content releases.
The specifications of the BD+ virtual machine are available only to licensed device manufacturers. A list of licensed adopters is available from the BD+ website.
BD+ was made available for content publishers in June 2007. The first titles using BD+ were released in October the same year. Players from Samsung and LG had problems playing back those titles until the manufacturers updated their firmware, but this problem was later identified as being related to BD-Java use, not BD+. BD+ protection was fully circumvented with the release 126.96.36.199 of AnyDVD HD program.
BD+ was made available for content publishers in June 2007. The first titles using BD+ were released in October the same year. Players from Samsung and LG had problems playing back those titles until the manufacturers updated their firmware, but this problem was later identified as being related to BD-Java use, not BD+. BD+ protection was fully circumvented with the release 188.8.131.52 of AnyDVD HD program.
BD-ROM Mark is a small amount of cryptographical data that is stored physically differently from normal Blu-ray Disc data. Bit-by-bit copies that do not replicate the BD-ROM Mark are impossible to decode. A specially licensed piece of hardware is required to insert the ROM-mark into the media during replication. Through licensing of the special hardware element, the BDA believes that it can eliminate the possibility of mass producing BD-ROMs without authorization.
The BD-ROM specification defines four profiles of Blu-ray Disc players; in addition to the three listed in the table below, there is a fourth audio-only profile that does not require video decoding or BD-J. All the video-based profiles are required to have a full implementation of BD-J, but with varying levels of hardware support.
Feature BD-Video Bonus View BD-Live
Grace Period – Profile 1.0 Final Standard – Profile 1.1 Profile 2.0
Built-in persistent memory 64 KB 64 KB 64 KB
Local storage capability – 256 MB 1 GB
Secondary video decoder (PiP)
Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Secondary audio decoder Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Virtual file system
Optional Mandatory Mandatory
Internet connection capability No No Mandatory
On November 1, 2007, the Grace Period Profile was superseded by Bonus View as the minimum profile for new players released to the market. With the exception of the PlayStation 3, Profile 1.0 players cannot be upgraded to be Bonus View compliant.On December 17, 2007, the PlayStation 3 became Bonus View 1.1 compliant through PlayStation 3 System Software version 2.10. On March 24, 2008 Sony released the 2.20 firmware update for the PlayStation 3 will that allows Blu-ray Disc Profile 2.0 functionality, making it the first in the market to have it.
When software authored with interactive features dependent on Bonus View hardware capabilities are played on profile 1.0 players, some features may not be available or may offer limited capability. Profile 1.0 players will still be able to play the main feature of the disc, however.
The first BD Live titles (War and Saw IV) were released by Lionsgate in January 2008, despite the fact that no players existed to play the web-enhanced content. The PlayStation 3 became the first Blu-ray Profile 2.0 compliant in late March, taking full advantage of the system's Ethernet and WiFi connectivity and hard drive storage space.
Over time, many titles are likely to be re-released with advanced profile 1.1/2.0 features and updates such as PiP, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC or VC-1 efficient codecs over MPEG-2, HD bonus content (1080i/p) as opposed to SD (480i/p), advanced gaming options, cleaner HD transfers, web-enhanced content and advanced menu systems. The first title to be re-released will be the 20th Century Fox film Alien vs. Predator due for release alongside sequel Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
While it is not compulsory for manufacturers, the Blu-ray Disc Association recommends that Blu-ray Disc drives should be capable of reading standard DVDs for backward compatibility but not all players can play back audio CDs (for example, the Sony BDP-S1). All other Blu-ray Disc players that have been released so far are also capable of CD and DVD playback
Although the Blu-ray Disc specification has been finalized, engineers continue working to advance the technology. Quad-layer (100 GB) discs have been demonstrated on a drive with modified optics (TDK version) and standard unaltered optics ("Hitachi used a standard drive."). Hitachi stated that such a disc could be used to store 7 hours of 32 Mbit/s video (HDTV) or 3.5 hours of 64 Mbit/s video (Cinema 4K). Furthermore TDK announced in August 2006 that they have created a working experimental Blu-ray Disc capable of holding 200 GB of data on a single side, using six 33 GB data layers.
Also behind closed doors at CES 2007, Ritek has revealed that they had successfully developed a High Definition optical disc process that extends the disc capacity to 10 layers. That increases the capacity of the discs to 250 GB. However, they noted that the major obstacle is that current reader and writer technology does not support the additional layers.
JVC has developed a three layer technology that allows putting both standard-definition DVD data and HD data on a BD/DVD combo. If successfully commercialized, this would enable the consumer to purchase a disc which could be played on current DVD players, and reveal its HD version when played on a new BD player. This hybrid disc does not appear to be ready for production and no titles have been announced that would utilize this disc structure.
In January 2007, Hitachi showcased a 100 GB Blu-ray Disc, which consists of four layers containing 25 GB each. Unlike TDK and Panasonic's 100 GB discs, they claim this disc is readable on standard Blu-ray Disc drives that are currently in circulation, and it is believed that a firmware update is the only requirement to make it readable to current players and drives.
Mini Blu-ray Disc
The Mini Blu-ray Disc (also, Mini-BD and Mini Blu-ray) is a compact 8cm (~3in) diameter variant of the Blu-ray Disc that can store approximately 7.5 GB of data. It is similar in concept to the MiniDVD.
Recordable (BD-R) and rewriteable (BD-RE) versions of Mini Blu-ray Disc have been developed specifically for compact camcorders and other compact recording devices.
BD9 / BD5 Blu-ray Disc
BD9 and BD5 are lower capacity variants of the Blu-ray Disc that contain Blu-ray compatible video and audio streams contained on a conventional DVD (650 nm wavelength / red laser) optical disc. Such discs offer the use of the same advanced compression technologies available to Blu-ray discs (including MPEG-4-AVC/H.264, SMPTE-421M/VC-1 and MPEG-2) while utilizing lower cost legacy media. BD9 utilizes a standard 8152MB DVD9 dual-layer disc while BD5 utilizes a standard 4489MB DVD5 single-layer disc.
Given that Blu-ray Discs are assumed to have a minimum transfer rate of 30.24 Mbit/s, BD9/BD5 discs must be spun at a high rate of speed, equivalent to a 3× DVD drive speed or greater.
BD9 and BD5 discs can be authored using home computers for private showing using standard DVD±R recorders. AACS digital rights management is optional.
The BD9 format was originally proposed by Warner Home Video, as a cost-effective alternative to regular Blu-ray Discs. It was adopted as part of the BD-ROM basic format, file system and AV specifications. BD5 and BD9 are similar to 3x DVD
AVCREC is an official lower capacity variant of the Blu-ray Disc used for storing Blu-ray Disc compatible content on conventional DVD discs. It is being promoted for use in camcorders, distribution of short HD broadcast content and other cost-sensitive distribution needs. It is similar to HD REC for HD DVD.
Note that AVCREC is not the same as AVCHD content stored on DVD. The latter is a media independent format that originated prior to the release of Blu-ray Disc.
Blu-ray Disc recordable
Blu-ray Disc recordable refers to two optical disc formats that can be recorded with an optical disc recorder. BD-R discs can be written to once, whereas BD-RE can be erased and re-recorded multiple times. As of January 2008, BD-R/RE drives up to 6x speed are available from retailers for about US$450, and 4x single-layer BD-R discs, with a capacity of 25 GB, can be found for around US$12. The theoretical maximum speed for Blu-ray Discs is about 12x as the speed of rotation (10,000 rpm) causes too much wobble for the discs to be read properly, similar to the 20x and 52x respective maximum speeds of DVDs and CDs.
Since September 2007, BD-RE was also available in the smaller 8 cm Mini Blu-ray Disc diameter size.
On September 18, 2007, Pioneer and Mitsubishi co-developed BD-R LTH ("Low to High" in groove recording), which features an organic dye recording layer that can be manufactured by modifying existing CD-R and DVD-R production equipment, significantly reducing manufacturing costs.
In February 2008, Taiyo Yuden, Mitsubishi and Maxell released the first BD-R LTH Discs, and in March 2008, Sony's PlayStation 3 gained official support for BD-R LTH Discs with the 2.20 firmware update.
HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc hybrid discs
Warner Brothers officially announced Total Hi Def at CES 2007. Total Hi Def hybrid discs support both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD on one side (up to two layers) and Blu-ray Disc on the other side (up to two layers). However, in November 2007, Warner Brothers put development of the Total HD discs on hold for an indefinite amount of time. The project was finally canceled in January 2008 when Warner declared that they were dropping HD DVD in favor of publishing exclusively on Blu-ray Disc — thus eliminating the need for a hybrid disc. Warner also cited a lack of interest from fellow studios to publish on hybrid discs, as all but one studio, Paramount Pictures, were exclusive to either Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD and when Paramount became HD DVD exclusive in August 2007 they left Warner as the only major studio publishing on both discs. In February 2008, Toshiba abandoned the HD DVD format, ending any need for a hybrid disc.
Monday, March 3, 2008
Holi (Hindi: होली) or Phagwah (Bhojpuri) is a popular, Hindu spring festival, observed in North India and Nepal, also called the Festival of Colours. In West Bengal, it is known as Dolyatra (Doljatra) or Boshonto Utsav ("spring festival").
The colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renew sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other 'Happy Holi'.
Holi celebration begins with lighting up of bonfire on the Holi eve. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. People rub 'gulal' and 'abeer' on each others' faces and cheer up saying, "bura na maano Holi hai". Holi also gives a wonderful chance to send blessings and love to dear ones wrapped in a special Holi gift.
History of Holi
Holi is an ancient festival of India and was originally known as 'Holika'. The festivals finds a detailed description in early religious works such as Jaimini's Purvamimamsa-Sutras and Kathaka-Grhya-Sutras. Historians also believe that Holi was celebrated by all Aryans but more so in the Eastern part of India.
It is said that Holi existed several centuries before Christ. However, the meaning of the festival is believed to have changed over the years. Earlier it was a special rite performed by married women for the happiness and well-being of their families and the full moon (Raka) was worshiped.
Calculating the Day of Holi
There are two ways of reckoning a lunar month- 'purnimanta' and 'amanta'. In the former, the first day starts after the full moon; and in the latter, after the new moon. Though the amanta reckoning is more common now, the purnimanta was very much in vogue in the earlier days.
According to this purnimanta reckoning, Phalguna purnima was the last day of the year and the new year heralding the Vasanta-ritu (with spring starting from next day). Thus the full moon festival of Holika gradually became a festival of merrymaking, announcing the commencement of the spring season. This perhaps explains the other names of this festival - Vasanta-Mahotsava and Kama-Mahotsava.
Reference in Ancient Texts and Inscriptions
Besides having a detailed description in the Vedas and Puranas such as Narad Purana and Bhavishya Purana, the festival of Holi finds a mention in Jaimini Mimansa. A stone incription belonging to 300 BC found at Ramgarh in the province of Vindhya has mention of Holikotsav on it. King Harsha, too has mentioned about holikotsav in his work Ratnavali that was written during the 7th century.
The famous Muslim tourist - Ulbaruni too has mentioned about holikotsav in his historical memories. Other Muslim writers of that period have mentioned, that holikotsav were not only celebrated by the Hindus but also by the Muslims.
The festival of Holi also finds a reference in the sculptures on walls of old temples. A 16th century panel sculpted in a temple at Hampi, capital of Vijayanagar, shows a joyous scene of Holi. The painting depicts a Prince and his Princess standing amidst maids waiting with syringes or pichkaris to drench the Royal couple in coloured water.
A 16th century Ahmednagar painting is on the theme of Vasanta Ragini - spring song or music. It shows a royal couple sitting on a grand swing, while maidens are playing music and spraying colors with pichkaris.
There are a lot of other paintings and murals in the temples of medieval India which provide a pictoral description of Holi. For instance, a Mewar painting (circa 1755) shows the Maharana with his courtiers. While the ruler is bestowing gifts on some people, a merry dance is on, and in the center is a tank filled with colored water. Also, a Bundi miniature shows a king seated on a tusker and from a balcony above some damsels are showering gulal (colored powders) on him.
Legends and Mythology
In some parts of India, specially in Bengal and Orissa, Holi Purnima is also celebrated as the birthday of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (A.D. 1486-1533). However, the literal meaning of the word 'Holi' is 'burning'. There are various legends to explain the meaning of this word, most prominent of all is the legend associated with demon king Hiranyakashyap.
Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion.
Legend of Lord Krishna is also associated with play with colors as the Lord started the tradition of play with colours by applying colour on his beloved Radha and other gopis. Gradually, the play gained popularity with the people and became a tradition.
There are also a few other legends associated with the festival - like the legend of Shiva and Kaamadeva and those of Ogress Dhundhi and Pootana. All depict triumph of good over evil - lending a philosophy to the festival.
Rituals of Holi
Rituals of the ancient festival of Holi are religiously followed every year with care and enthusiasm.
Days before the festival people start gathering wood for the lighting of the bonfire called Holika at the major crossroads of the city. This ensures that at the time of the actual celebration a huge pile of wood is collected.
Holika Dahan Celebrations
Then on the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Effigy of Holika, the devil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap is placed in the wood and burnt. For, Holika tried to kill Hiranyakashyap's son Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee.
Children also hurl abuses at Holika and pray pranks, as if they still try to chase away Dhundhi who once troubled little ones in the Kingdom of Prithu. Some people also take embers from the fire to their homes to rekindle their own domestic fires.
Play of Colors
Next day, is of course the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti
and it is on this day that the actual play of colours take place. There is no tradition of holding puja and is meant for pure enjoyment.
The tradition of playing colours is particularly rampant in north India and even in that region, there can be no comparison to the Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan. In Maharashtra and Gujarat too Holi is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and fun.
People take extreme delight in spraying colour water on each other with pichkaris or pouring buckets and buckets of it. Singing Bollywood Holi numbers and dancing on the beat of dholak is also a part of the tradition. Amidst all this activity people relish gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other traditional Holi delicacies with great joy.
Drinks, specially thandai laced with bhang is also an intrinsic part of the Holi festivity. Bhang helps to further enhance the spirit of the occasion but if taken in excess it might dampen it also. So caution should be taken while consuming it.
Holi Celebrations in South India
In south India, however, people follow the tradition of worshiping Kaamadeva, the love god of Indian mythology. People have faith in the legend which speak about the great sacrifice of Kaamadeva when he shot his love arrow on Lord Shiva to break his meditation and evoke his interest in worldly affairs.
After, an eventful and funfilled day people become a little sober in the evening and greet friends and relatives by visiting them and exchange sweets. Holi special get togethers are also organised by various cultural organisations to generate harmony and brotherhood in the society.
Significance of Holi
In spite of being such a colourful and gay festival, there are various aspects of Holi which makes it so significant for our lives. Though they might not be so apparent but a closer look and a little thought will reveal the significance of Holi in more ways than meets the eyes. Ranging from socio-cultural, religious to biological there is every reason why we must heartily enjoy the festival and cherish the reasons for its celebrations.
So when, its time for Holi, please don't hold yourself back and enjoy the festival to the hilt by participating with full enthusiasm in every small tradition related to the festival.
Holi gets us close to our religion and our mythology as it is essentially the celebration of various legends associated with the festival.
Foremost is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakshyap. The legend says there once lived a devil and powerful king, Hiranyakshyap who considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahlad began to worship, Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap, as she had a boon to enter fire unscathed. Legend has it that Prahlad was saved for his extreme devotion for the lord while Holika paid a price for her sinister desire. The tradition of burning Holika or the 'Holika dahan' comes mainly from this legend.
Holi also celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which describes the extreme delight, Krishna took in applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank of Krishna later, became a trend and a part of the Holi festivities.
Mythology also states that Holi is the celebration of death of Ogress Pootana who tried to kill infant, Krishna by feeding poisonous milk to it.
Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.
Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief in the legend, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan.
Celebration of the various legends associated with Holi reassure the people of the power of the truth as the moral of all these legends is the ultimate victory of good over evil. The legend of Hiranyakashyap and Prahlad also points to the fact that extreme devotion to god pays as god always takes his true devotee in his shelter.
All these legends help the people to follow a good conduct in their lives and believe in the virtue of being truthful. This is extremely important in the modern day society when so many people resort to evil practices for small gains and torture one who is honest. Holi helps the people to believe in the virtue of being truthful and honest and also to fight away the evil.
Besides, holi is celebrated at a time of the year when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest. This gives a people a good reason to rejoice, make merry and submerge themselves in the spirit of Holi.
Holi helps to bring the society together and strengthen the secular fabric of our country. For, the festival is celebrated by non-Hindus also as everybody like to be a part of such a colouful and joyous festival.
Also, the tradition of the Holi is that even the enemies turn friends on Holi and forget any feeling of hardship that may be present. Besides, on this day people do not differentiate between the rich and poor and everybody celebrate the festival together with a spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood.
In the evening people visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings. This helps in revatalising relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between people.
It is interesting to note that the festival of Holi is significant for our lives and body in many other ways than providing joy and fun.
We also need to thank our forefathers who started the trend of celebrating Holi at such a scientifically accurate time. And, also for incorporating so much fun in the festival.
As Holi comes at a time of the year when people have a tendency to feel sleepy and lazy. This is natural for the body to experiences some tardiness due to the change from the cold to the heat in the atmosphere. To counteract this tardiness of the body, people sing loudly or even speak loudly. Their movements are brisk and their music is loud. All of this helps to rejuvenate the system of the human body.
Besides, the colours when sprayed on the body have a great impact on it. Biologists believe the liquid dye or Abeer penetrates the body and enters into the pores. It has the effect of strengthening the ions in the body and adds health and beauty to it.
There is yet another scientific reason for celebrating the Holi, this however pertains to the tradition of Holika Dahan. The mutation period of winter and spring, induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere as well as in the body. When Holika is burnt, temperature rises to about 145 degrees Fahrenhiet. Following the tradition when people perform Parikrima (circumambulation or going around) around the fire, the heat from the fire kills the bacteria in the body thus, cleansing it.
The way Holi is celebrated in south, the festival also promotes good health. For, the day after the burning of Holika people put ash (Vibhuti) on their forehead and they would mix Chandan (sandalpaste) with the young leaves and flowers of the Mango tree and consume it to promote good health.
Some also believe that play with colours help to promote good health as colours are said to have great impact on our body and our health. Western-Physicians and doctors believe that for a healthy body, colours too have an important place besides the other vital elements. Deficiency of a particular colour in our body causes ailment, which can be cured only after supplementing the body with that particular colour.
People also clean-up their houses on Holi which helps in clearing up the dust and mess in the house and get rid of mosquitoes and others pests. A clean house generally makes the residents feel good and generate positive energies.
Tradition of Holi
The colourful festival of Holi is celebrated by different names in this vast and culturally diverse country. The traditions followed for the festival varies a little and at times a lot as one moves from one state to other studying the various facets of the festival and getting behind the various colours of it.
Nowhere it is celebrated with so much charm and enthusiasm as in Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana and Nandgaon - the places associated with the birth and childhood of Lord Krishna. At Barsana Holi assumes the name of Lathmaar Holi. Here, women of Barsana give a tough time to men of Nandgaon as they come to play Holi with them. Women drag the unlucky captives, beat them, dress them in a female attire - yet all is in the spirit of Holi.
Women of Haryana, specifically the bhabhis too get an upper hand on the day as they get a social sanction to beat their devars and take a sweet revenge for all the mischiefs they have played on them. This revengeful tradition is called the Dulandi Holi.
The most enjoyable tradition of Holi, of course, apart from the play of colours is the tradition of breaking the pot. It is celebrated with much fan fair in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Here a pot of buttermilk is hung high on the streets. Men form a huge human pyramid and one on the top breaks the pot with his head. All this while women keep singing Holi folk songs and throwing buckets and buckets of water. The tradition has its roots in the mischievous nature of Lord Krishna who was so fond of butter milk that he used to steal it from every accessible house in the village. To hide the butter from young Krishna, womenfolk used to hang it high. All in vain!
Holi is celebrated in the most dignified manner in the state of Bengal. At Vishwa Bharti University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore founded the tradition of celebrating Holi as 'Basant Utsav' or 'Spring Festival'. Students decorate the campus with intricate rangolis and carry out prabhat pheris in the morning. Clad in a traditional attire young boys and girls sing songs composed by Gurudev and present an enchanting view to the onlookers who gather in large number here. In other parts of Bengal, Holi is celebrated as Dol Yatra where the idols of Radha and Krishna are placed on a decorated palanquin and taken out in a procession.
For Sikhs, Holi calls for the display of their physical strength and military prowess as they gather at Anandpur Sahib a day after Holi to celebrate Hola Mohalla. The tradition was started by the tenth and last guru of Sikh religion, Guru Gobind Singh ji and is being religiously carried forward.
In the north east, Manipuris celebrate the festival in a colourful manner for six continuous days. Here, the centuries old Yaosang Festival of Manipur amalgated with Holi with the introduction of Vaishnavism in the eighteenth century. The highlight of the festival here is a special Manipuri dance, called 'Thabal Chongba'.
Well, there are many-many more ways in which Holi is celebrated. Different states, different cities and different villages have come out with their unique and innovative styles of playing Holi. It may not be possible to describe all of them at one place. What is noteworthy though is the fact that the spirit of Holi remains the same throughout. It is the festival which generates the spirit of brotherhood and bring people close - and this is what matters most than anything else.
What enhances the spirit of Holi though is the tradition of consuming the intoxicating bhang. It is generally consumed with thandai or as pakoras. People go high on it and enjoy the festival to the hilt. Other Holi delicacies include gujiya, mathri, malpua, puranpoli, dahi badas, etc. After a frenzied play of colours people love to gorge them up.
Holi celebration takes place with lot of joy and verve throughout the country. The enthusiasm of the people reaches its peak and matches with the nature which is in full bounty at the time of Holi.
Holi is being celebrated in Indian since time immemorial but the popularity of Holi celebrations seems to be rising with every passing year and so is the level of hoo-ha. As no other festival gives so much liberty to the people to let their hair loose and enjoy their hidden crazy self.
Differences of any sort are drowned in the coloured waters of Holi and people just enjoy being a play animal. To further enhance the festive spirit of Holi celebrations we have a social sanction to get a kick with the tradition of bhang. Then there is total wildness as people dance to the rhythm of dholak and sing traditional folk songs in loudest possible pitch.
Children particularly enjoy the festival as they throw water filled balloons at passersby...and if anybody stares..they have ready answer, 'Bura na mano Holi hai..' and evoke a smile on the irritated face. Besides, they have their water missiles, called pichkaris to drench the person from far and escape further drenching.
In the midst of these colouring games are savoured the mouth watering holi specialities like gujiya, malpuas, mathri, puran poli, dahi badas etc and downed with glasses full of thandai.
In some states there is also a tradition of breaking the pot full of buttermilk which is hung high on the streets. A group of boys form a human pyramid and one of them break the pot. All this while womenfolk throw buckets of colour water on them and sing folk songs.
And after a wild and eventful day, evenings are celebrated in a dignified manner by visiting friends and relatives. People exchange sweets and hug each other conveying the warm wishes for Holi. These days there people also participate and organise Holi Meets and enjoy the festival till late in the night.
Holi celebrations that starts with the burning of Holika on the eve of Holi thus culminates with the lot of funfilled activity and bonhomie. However, at some places specially Mathura and Barsana Holi celebrations continue for a week as each major temple organise a Holi bash on different day.
Festival of Colours
HOLI HAI... Come holi and the streets will reverberate with the chants of Holi hai...
Colours will fill the atmosphere as people throw abeer and gulal in the air showing great joy and mirth in the arrival of this Spring Festival.
Holi marks the end of the winter gloom and rejoices in the bloom of the spring time. It is the best time and season to celebrate; Holi provides this opportunity and people take every advantage of it.
Days before Holi, the markets get flooded with the colours of every hues. This aptly sets the mood of the people till the actual day of Holi. It is such a colourful and joyous sight to watch huge piles of bright red, magenta, pink, green and blue every where on the streets. Buying those colours seems as you are bringing joys and colour to your home and into your life.
Children take special delight in the festival and demand every colour in loads. They have so many plans in their mind. They have to be the first to apply colour to Mama, Papa, siblings and a big bunch of friends in their colony. Nobody could miss being coloured by them and of course, they need colour for that.
These days it is easy to buy colours from the market but still some people do take up the task of making colours at home, usually from flowers of tesu and palash. These home made colours, have a special fragrance of love in them.
The other option is to buy gulal which comes in bright shades of pink, magenta, red, yellow and green. 'Abeer' is made of small crystals or paper like chips of mica. This is mixed with the gulal for a rich shine. Mischievous ones, however, go for silver and gold paints on which no colour could be applied.
Whatever be the choice of colour, nobody remains in their original texture at the end of the play. And everybody takes delight looking at the other. Really, the other name of the festival is FUN.
And, it is not just children, but the young and the old alike who take delight in this joyous festival of colours. Seniors too, move in their tolis. Their enthusiasm is at times greater than that of their children as they forget the bars of age and follow their hearts. To youth, holi gives a chance to explore the heights of their enthusiasm as they climb the human pyramids to break the pot of buttermilk and to express their love to their beloved by applying colour.
For, Holi knows no bars, everybody feels it is their right to enjoy and enjoy they do. Songs, dance, drinks, food everything goes in excess when it is time for Holi. It can be said, "Life turns Colourful" when it is time for Holi.
The Evening of Bonfires
Holika Dahan or the lighting of bonfire takes place on the eve of Holi. The day is also popularly called 'Chhoti Holi' or the 'Small Holi'.The bigger event - play with the colour takes place on the next 'big' day.
Holika Dahan is an extremely popular tradition and is celebrated with fervour all across the country and is symbolic of triumph of good over evil. There are numerous legends associated with this ancient tradition and it is difficult to pin-point as to when actually the tradition started.
A Brief History
Holikotsav finds a mention in the Vedas and Puranas. It is stated that during the Vedic period the sacred fire of Holi was burnt amidst the chanting of specific mantras which were intended for the destruction of the demonic forces. It is also said that on this very day Vaishwadev oblation commenced in which offerings of wheat, gram and oat were made to the sacrificial fire.
Some scholars believe that Holikotsav is named after fried cereals or parched grains called 'Holka' in Sanskrit. These parched grains were used to perform hawana (a fire ritual).The vibhuti (sacred ashes) obtained from this ritual was smeared on the forehead of those who participated in the ritual to keep away evil. This vibhuti is called Bhumi Hari. Till date there is a tradition of offering wheat and oat into the Holika fire.
According to Narad Purana, this day is celebrated in the memory of Prahlad's victory and the defeat of his aunt 'Holika'. The legend has it that there once existed a mighty demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who wished that everybody in his kingdom should worship him. His son, Prahlad became a follower of Lord Naarayana. Hiranyakashyap instructed his sister, Holika to sit in the burning fire with Prahlad in lap. She was blessed with a boon, as a result of which no fire could burn her. But the opposite happened, Prahlad survived and Holika was charred to death. Thus 'holi' is celebrated to commemorate the victory of virtue over evil.
It is because of this event, Holika (a bonfire) is burnt every year on Holi. The burning of the effigy of Holika is called Holika Dahan.
Another legend mentioned in the 'Bhavishya Purana' is also considered to be related to the festival of Holi. The legend goes back to the kingdom of Raghu, where lived an ogress called Dhundhi who used to trouble children but was finally chased away by them on the day of Holi. This is said to be the reason why the tradition of Holika Dahan is so popular amongst children and why they are allowed to play pranks on the day.
There is also a specific way in which Holika Dahan takes place. A log of wood is kept in a prominent public place on the Vasant Panchami day, almost 40 days before the Holi Festival. People go on throwing twigs, dried leaves, branches of trees left through the winter besides any other combustible material they can spare, on to that log which gradually grows into a sizable heap. On the day of Holika Dahan an effigy of Holika with child Prahlad in her lap is kept on the logs. Usually, Holika's effigy is made of combustible materials, whereas, Prahlad's effigy is made of non-combustible one. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight amidst the chanting of Rakshoghna Mantras of the Rig Veda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) to ward off all evil spirits.
Next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad and smeared on the limbs of the body. If spared by the fire coconuts are also collected and eaten.
Metaphorically though, the fire is meant to signify the destruction of evil - the burning of the 'Holika' - a mythological character and the triumph of good as symbolised by Prahlad. However, the heat from the fire also depicts that winter is behind and the hot summer days are ahead.
Next day after Holika Dahan is called Dhuleti, when play with colours actually takes place.
It may be noted that in some places like Bihar and UP Holika Dahan is also known as 'Samvatsar Dahan'. The concept of Samvatsar New Year varies in different provinces of our country. In some provinces the month commences from 'Krishna Paksha' while in others it commences from 'Shukla Paksha'. For Krishna Paksha, the year ends on 'Purnima' of the month of Phalgun and thus the new year begins the next day - Chaitra, first day of the Krishna Paksha.
Holi Pooja Process
Holi Pooja takes place a day before the Holi Festival. This day is called as 'Holika Dahan'. There is no special pooja performed on the Holi day. This day is only meant for celebrations and play of colors. Holika Dahan is the major ritual performed at the time of Holi which is also considered an important Holi Puja. People light bonfires on the eve of Holi festival to celebrate the victory of 'good' over 'bad' which is called Holika Dahan.
Holi Pooja Process or Holika Dahan Process
Holika Dahan preparations begin almost 40 days before the festival. People start gathering woods on the important crossroads of the city. Holi Pooja or Holika takes place on an auspicious time in the evening a day before the Holi festival. Given below are the steps and rituals for the Holi Pooja:
1.Holi Pooja can be performed at any place.
2.A log of wood is kept at a prominent public place on the Vasant Panchami day.
3.People extend the log centre with twigs, dried leaves, branches of trees and other combustible material.
4.On the day of Holika Dahan, an effigy of Holika and Prahlad is placed on the huge heap of woods.
5.Effigy of Holika is made of combustible material while Prahlad's effigy is made of non-combustible material.
6.On the eve of Holi, the heap is set alight and the people chant Rakshoghna Mantras of the Rig Veda to cast away the evil spirits.
7.Left over ashes are collected by people next morning. These ashes are considered holy and are smeared on the limbs of the body as Holi Prasad.
8.Smearing of body limbs is an act of purification.
Holi Pooja is performed in a different manner in some communities. Marwari women offer Holi puja in the afternoon and evening i.e. before setting fire to 'Holika'. It is called 'Thandi Holi'. The whole puja process is considered very auspicious for the married women. It ensures well-being and healthy life of their husband.
Just at the beginning of the year, people start looking for the Holi Date in their Calendar. This is because Holi is the first major Hindu Festival of the year. If you too wish to find out when is Holi 2008 or When is Holi in 2009 here is a Holi Calendar just for you! The page offers you Holi Calendar for 2008, 2009 and 2007 too.
Please note that the Holi Calendar given below gives you the main date of Holi celebrations. This day is celebrated with play of colors. Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi is celebrated a day earlier. On the day of Holika Dahan people burn logs of wood to symbolize victory of good over evil and observe Holi Pooja.
So go ahead mark the Holi Date 2008 in your personal calendar and start preparing for Holi 2008!!
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Celebrate an Eco Friendly Holi
Ideally, the joyous festival of Holi is meant to celebrate the arrival of Spring while the colors used in Holi are to reflect of the various hues of spring season. But unfortunately, in modern times Holi does not stand for all things beautiful. Like various other festivals, Holi too has become ruthlessly commercialized, boisterous and yet another source of environmental degradation. To de-pollute Holi and make it in sync with nature, as it is supposed to be, several social and environmental groups are proposing a return to more natural ways of celebrating Holi.
The aim of this articles is to generate awareness amongst people about the various harmful effects around Holi celebrations and encourage people to celebrate an eco friendly Holi!
Please read on to know about the three main environmental concerns around Holi -
1.The use of toxic chemical colours.
2.The use of wood for burning Holi fires.
3.The wasteful use of water during Holi.
1. Harmful Effects of Chemical Colours
In earlier times when festival celebrations were not so much commercialized Holi colors were prepared from the flowers of trees that blossomed during spring, such as the Indian Coral Tree (parijat) and the Flame of the Forest (Kesu), both of which have bright red flowers. These and several other blossoms provided the raw material from which the brilliant shades of Holi colours were made. Most of these trees also had medicinal properties and Holi colors prepared from them were actually beneficial to the skin.
Over the years, with the disappearance of trees in urban areas and greater stress for higher profits these natural colours came to be replaced by industrial dyes manufactured through chemical processes.
Around 2001, two environmental groups called Toxics Link and Vatavaran, based in Delhi, did a study on all the three available categories of colours available in the market - pastes, dry colours and water colours. The study revealed that all of these three forms of chemical Holi colors are hazardous.
Harmful Chemicals in Holi Paste type colors
According to their researched fact sheet on Holi, the pastes contain very toxic chemicals that can have severe health effects. Please check the table below to know about the chemical used in various Holi colors and their harmful effects on human body.
Color Chemical Health Effects
Black : Lead oxide : Renal Failure
Green : Copper Sulphate : Eye Allergy, Puffiness and temporary blindness
Silver: Aluminium Bromide : Carcinogenic
Blue : Prussian Blue : Contract Dermatitis
Red : Mercury Sulphite : Highly toxic can cause skin cancer
Harmful Chemicals in Gulal
The dry colours, commonly known as gulals, have two components – a colourant that is toxic and a base which could be either asbestos or silica, both of which cause health problems. Heavy metals contained in the colourants can cause asthma, skin diseases and adversely affect the eyes.
Harms of Wet Holi Colors
Wet colours, mostly use Gentian violet as a colour concentrate which can cause skin dis-colouration and dermatitis.
These days, Holi colours are sold loosely, on the roads, by small traders who often do not know the source. Sometimes, the colours come in boxes that specifically say ‘For industrial use only’.
Action Taken by Environmental Groups
Following the publication of these studies several environmental groups took up the cause to encourage people to return to a more natural way of celebrating Holi. Amongst these,
•Navdanya, Delhi published a book called Abir Gulal, which spoke of the biodiversity that was the source of natural colours.
•Development Alternatives, Delhi and Kalpavriksh, Pune have developed educational tools to teach children simple ways of making their own natural Holi colours.
•The CLEAN India campaign has been teaching children how to make beautiful natural colours.
Make your own Holi colours
Holi festival lovers will be thrilled to know that it is possible to make simple natural colors in one’s own kitchen. Here are some very simple recipes to make natural colours:
Color Method of Preparation
Yellow 1) Mix turmeric (haldi) powder with chick pea flour (besan)
2) Boil Marigold or Tesu flowers in water
Yellow liquid color Soak peels of pomegranate (Anar) overnight.
Deep Pink Slice a beetroot and soak in water
Orange - red paste Henna leaves (mehndi) can be dried, powdered and mixed with water.
Purchase Natural Holi Colors
For those who do not have the time to make their own colours, there is the choice of buying natural Holi colours. Several groups are now producing and promoting such colours, although it is important to verify the ingredients of the colours and ensure you know enough about the source.
2. The Holi Bonfire
The burning of fuel wood to create the bonfire for Holika Dahan presents another serious environmental problem. According to a news article, studies done in the state of Gujarat reveal that each bonfire uses around 100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit in the state of Gujarat just for one season, this leads to a wastage of a staggering amount of wood.
Groups such as Sadvichar Parivar are now advocating one symbolic community fire, rather than several smaller bonfires across the city as a way to reduce wood consumption. Others are also suggesting that these fires be lit using waste material rather than wood.
3. A Dry Holi?
In the current situation, when most cities in India are facing acute water scarcity, the wasteful use of water during Holi, is also being questioned. It is common for people to douse each other with buckets of water during Holi, and children often resort to throwing water balloons at each other. The idea of a dry Holi seems alien at first, especially as the climate becomes warmer around Holi, and the water provides welcome relief from the heat. However, considering that in some urban areas, citizens can go without water for several days, it seems wasteful to use so much water simply for a celebration.
Environmental Consciousness Amongst People
It is a relief to notice that the awareness about the environmental impacts of celebrating Holi are being brought to light by various NGOs. And gradually, more and more Indians are choosing to turn to a more natural and less wasteful way of playing Holi.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the Sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi ), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of celebration all over the country. The day begins with people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping the Sun.
Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the arrows of Arjun. With his boon to choose the time of his death, he waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
The Indo Gangetic plain begins this day with taking dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun god. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
Til and Rice are two important ingredients of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day. Also known as Gangasagar Mela, on this day, people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the river Hooghly, near Calcutta.
when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say "til gud ghya, god god bola" (henceforth, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us).
the pandits consider Sankranti as an auspicious day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit to students who have successfully completed their studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils are purchased and used for the first time. Brightly coloured kites dot the skies on this day.
men, women and children attired in colourful tunics visit friends and relatives and exchange pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings. As part of the festival, cows and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland, and are taken in a procession in the village to the accompaniment of pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire.
It is a big event for the Tamils and the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
One month preceeding Sankranti is called Dhanurmasam and is also an auspicious period. People wake up early, take bath and go around the streets singing devotional songs. Houses are whitewashed and farmers clean their warehouses. Colorful rangoli (muggulu) are drawn in the front yards of every house during this month. These artistic floral designs are drawn on the floor with rice flour or fine powder from limestone. These patterns are decorated with marigold placed on cowdung balls. Colorfully dressed young girls go round them singing songs.
The Makar Sankranti is a famous festival of the Hindus and the Nepalese. It is celebrated in mid-winter and marks the transition of the sun from the Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Every twelve years the popular Kumbh Mela is held during Makar Sankranti where people from all over the country flock, to dedicate pujas in the banks of the River Ganges.
During the time of ‘Uttarayan’, it is said that father Sun visits the house of his son and this time marks the strong bonding between the father and son. It is also said that during this time Lord Vishnu slayed terrorism of the Ashuras and Bhagirath offered ‘Tarpan’ (praying for the forefathers) to Ganga to liberate his ancestors from the curse. The basic representation is simple, that even if we are severed from the roots but with the passing of time we soon get back to the good elements, which are present in us.
The main rituals of Makar Sankranti are that people taking dip in the Ganges or any other river to wash off their sins and attain ‘punya’ (freeing oneself from sins). They also offer ‘tarpan’ for their ancestors. But before performing all these rituals it is necessary to pray early in the morning, before sunrise. The farmers also dedicate special pujas as a mark of thanks giving for good harvest.
When does the Festival Start?
Unlike the other festivals, which are based on the lunar calendar, the Hindus celebrate the Makar Sankranti based on the solar calendar. The festival shows the sun’s sojourn to the northern hemisphere. Usually the first six months of the year shares long days but short nights, whereas the next six months share short days and long nights. The first period is known as the Uttarayan, which means north, that is, the sun moves north from the center of the sky. The second period is famously known as the Dakshinaayaria, which means south, that is, the sun moves southwards during this time. The celebration of the Makar Sankranti starts on the first day of Uttarayan.
The food prepared during Makar Sankranti enables to keep the body warm and produce energy. Since the puja is undertaken during the winter times therefore the food is really helpful. The state of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India celebrates the festival with much pomp and vigor for three consecutive days.
In West Bengal, Makar Sankranti is popularly known as the ‘Gangasagar Mela’. People flock at the banks of the river Ganges and take dip to attain ‘punya’. In Gujarat the festival is celebrated by flying kites in the sky. In Maharashtra, people exchange Tilachir Ladoo, which actually tastes very sweet. The women wear a kind of black sari, which is known as the Chandrakala.
The Punjabis commemorate the occasion by lighting a bonfire and throwing rice, sweets and sugarcane. The next day they celebrate Maghi in which they perform the Bhangra dance. The Assamese celebrate Bhogali Bihu during this time. In Northern part of India, the Kumbh Mela (the largest fair in the world) is held at the confluence of Yamuna, Ganges and Saraswati Rivers. In Kerala, the people celebrate Pongal in which a cow or bathe, then a tilak is put on it and beads and ornaments are put round the horns and the neck. Thus, the Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much dedication and faith all over India.
Why is Makar Sankranti always on the 14th of January?
Makar Sankranti falls on the day of the year when the sun-considered the king of all grahas (planets)-is in the rashi (zodiac sign) known as Makar (Capricorn). This is considered the most beneficial and auspicious zodiac of the sun. The calculations for determining Makar Sankranti are done according to the solar calendar. Therefore, Makar Sankranti always falls on the 14th January according to the English calendar. It is usually the month of Magh of the Hindu calendar, the 'Tithi' or the position of the moon keeps shifting because of the difference in calculations.
In the north, this festival is called Lohri: The Bonfire Festival
It is celebrated by both children and adults. In the morning on Lohri day, children go from door to door singing and demanding the Lohri 'loot' in the form of money and eatables like til (sesame) seeds, peanuts, jaggery, or sweets like Gajak, rewri, etc. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor, and once helped a miserable village girl out of her misery by getting her married off like his own sister.
The Bonfire Ritual - In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses and people gather around the rising flames, circle around (parikrama) the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire, shouting "Aadar aye dilather jaye" (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs. This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs).
Song & Dance - Bhangra dance by men begins after the offering to the bonfire. Dancing continues till late night with new groups joining in amid the beat of drums. Traditionally, women do not join Bhangra. They hold a separate bonfire in their courtyard orbiting it with the graceful gidda dance.
In the south, Sankranti becomes Pongal, a harvest festival.
Cows and bulls are decorated and taken in procession around villages. The first rice of the new harvest is ritually offered to the sun god and cooked in different ways to symbolise plenty. The food cooked for such feasts is also offered to the cows on that day. The special sweets made on this occasion are Sakkami Pongal or rice cooked in jaggery and Ven Pongal or rice cooked with green gram, nuts and ghee. The season of Sankranti ends with Ratha Saptami, the seventh day of the bright half of Magh, when the sun and his golden chariot are honoured.
West Bengal - last day of the Bengali month of Poush
Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the country gather at Gangasagar, the point where the holy river Ganges meets the sea, to take a dip and wash away all the earthly sins.
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is Assam's one of the most important festivals.
Cutting across the bars of class and caste, it celebrated by all and sundry. Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu (derived from the word 'Bhoga' meaning eating or enjoyment) is celebrated when the harvesting is over. It is a harvest festival.
On the eve of Bihu day, called "Uruka", women prepare rice cakes and other refreshments and young men build a temporary shelter in the open, collect firewood, often by stealing, which is permissible on this occasion, for a bonfire
The most significant part of this day is the building of 'Meji' - a structure built of logs of wood placed in pairs, tier above tier till they rise to considerable heights and present the appearance of a lofty temple. The whole night is spent in feasting, merry - making dancing and singing.
The half-burnt sticks and ashes of the meji are strewn on the fields and at the root of the fruit trees as they are believed to increase fertility.
In Gujarat and the other western states, Uttarayana
The change in the direction of winds at this time of the year. It is marked by thousands of colourful kites which dot the clear blue sky. Young men vie with each other to win community kite-flying competitions and then come home to a special winter feast in the evening. In these states, January is a month for eating newly-sprouted vegetables, sweets made of milk and fruits of the season.
ln Maharashtra, Karnataka as well as parts of Andhra, Makar Sankranti
A day of goodwill and friendship. Sesame chikki ladoos and sugardrops are distributed by everyone as a symbol of the need to be generous and kind to everyone Women wear new clothes, new glass bangles and hold get-togethers to share sweets and gifts. A new bride is given ornaments made of sugardrops and her new relatives are invited to meet and welcome her at Haldi Kumkum celebration. In rural Maharashtra, Sankranti brings in feasts when tender Jowar is eaten with salt and lemon juice, as well as fresh vegetables, guavas, custard apples, grapes, oranges and other fruits of the season.
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