Holi Festival

Unless there is an active participation of people no movement will succeed. This fact was witnessed when Andha-shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) campaigned against the ugly part of Holi festival celebrated throughout Maharashtra in the month of March. During earlier days, this festival was full of joy and was a sort of get together of friends and family members. But day-by-day the festival was taking ugly turn polluting the atmosphere and creating tensions among rival groups. Wood was burnt, eatables were wasted and women were teased.  ANS was striving hard to restrain the celebrations so as to avoid pollution of atmosphere and wastage of food. The tradition demands burning of large quantity of wood in the evening and throwing Puran Poli (a sort of sweet pan cake) in the fire, thus wasting costly eatables which otherwise could have been eaten by poor and bringing joy to them.

MANS took up the task of celebrating this festival in an ideal manner. They wanted that the community should restrict the size of the fire, should not throw the eatables in the fire and use slogans to boost the morale of women. In fact the festival should aim at bringing social awareness about the protection of environment, importance of community cleanliness and gender equality.

As a pilot model, Kolhapur branch of MANS took initiative to mobilise the resources. Preparations were made quite in advance and contacts were established with school authorities and local like-minded institutions. Despite their busy schedule of census work, teachers went out of their way to bring awareness among the students about the ugly nature of present day celebrations and how it can be used for social reformation. Students and teachers took out procession in the streets to convey the message of environment protection and cleanliness.MANS got very good response from various organisations to participate in the movement. Journalists too joined. Local politicians also supported. Thus on Holi day the number of children near the fire was considerably reduced. Instead students joined activists going from house to house to collect Puran Poli . More than 10 000 Puran Poli was distributed among the poor and needy on that day.

MANS does not advocate centralised control.  As such all units are  free to plan  any activities independently with innovative ideas within the framework and fulfill the mission. In one more suburban area of Kolhapur, MANS activists requested people to donate Sheni (dried  cow dung used as fire wood in the rural areas) instead of Puran Poli. Every family is expected to contribute at least five Sheni so that Holi fire could last long enough. People appreciated the idea and responded positively. ANS could collect 14 truckloads of Sheni on Holi day. This itself is a proper utilisation of biomass. Since Local Corporation supplies firewood for funeral free of charge, ANIS deposited all the material with the corporation that appreciated the gesture. In one more unit, people were encouraged to collect and burn the garbage instead of wood.

The story was repeated in about 60-70 places of 20 districts of Maharashtra with a few variations. In some places the activists made a symbolic fire of tobacco products to convey the message of its harmful effect on the society. In some places it was a cleaning drive of public places. Media appreciated the efforts of ANS and gave wide publicity to the activities and people at large welcomed the change wholeheartedly.