filipsky at site.cas.cz
Wed Feb 28 13:28:01 EST 1996
I am sorry to revert once again to the subject of HolikA, but owing to my
being confined to bed for some time past I tried to send the following
contribution via Eudora/Netscape/Trumpet to my server by modem already on
Feb 16, but the message has probably never reached the Indology forum and
therefore I take the liberty, with due apologies, of submitting it again to
your consideration, for all it is worth.
>On Tue, 13 Feb 1996, Girish Beeharry wrote:
>>Apparently, the name of Holi is connected to HolikA, a rAk.sasI....
According to Goesta Liebert (Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian
Religions, Brill, Leiden 1976, p. 105), HolikA (Hi. HolkA MAtA) is the
patroness of the holi festival; may originally have been a rakSasI or a
female demon. During the Holi festival she is represented as a straw puppet
which is chased by the children and finally burnt in fire. For further
reading one is a bit disappointed to find only the time-hallowed H. von
Glasenapp's Der Hinduismus (Muenchen 1922, p. 354: "Am Abend wird ein Feuer
angezuendet, auf welchem eine Strohpuppe <HolikA> verbrannt wird), further
L'Inde classique bz L. Renou and J. Filliozat, vol. 1, p. 590, and W.
Koppers, Die Bhil in Zentralindien, Horn-Wien 1948, p. 149.
N.N. Bhattacharyya in his Glossary of Indian Religious Terms and
Concepts (Manohar, Delhi 1990, p. 99) calls holi also holikA (as well as
HutAs'anI and PhAlgunikA) and suggests that the word may be derived from
NyAyakos'a or Dictionary of Technical Terms of Indian Philosophy by
MahAmahopAdhyAya BhImAchArya JhalakIkar first published as early as in
1874, but later thoroughly revised and substantially enlarged by
MahAmahopAdhyAya VAsudev ShAstrI Abhyankar (The Bhandarkar Oriental
Research Institute, Poona 1978, p. 1086), quoting PuruSArthacintAmaNi, has
the following to say on the subject of HolikA (s.v.):
"sarvaduSTApaho homaH sarvarogopas'AntidaH/ kriyatesyAM dvijaiH pArtha tena
sA holikA smRtA//309//
atra viSes'aH sArdhayAmatrayaM vAM syAddvitIye divase yadA/
pratipadvardhamAnA tu tadA sA holikA smRtA//312//
An even earlier authority, Edward Moor, in his The Hindu Pantheon,
first published in 1810 and reprinted by Asian Educational Services (New
Delhi 1981), refers to the festival as Huli, and goes on saying (p. 157):
"The Huli, among the Hindus, reminds one strongly of the Saturnalia with
the Romans: people of low condition take liberties with their superiors in
a manner not admissible on other occasions. The chief form in public is
throwing coloured powders on the clothes of persons passing in the streets,
and squirting about tinted waters. Dignified persons avoid, as much as they
can, appearing abroad while these jocularities are passing, unless with the
view of gaining popularity they condescend to partake in them: in general
they confine themselves to their homes, and sport with their women...
Sending simpletons on idle errands contributes also to the delights of
Huli: this is performed exactly similar to our ceremony of making
April-fools on the first of that month and is common to all ranks of
Hindus; and Mahomedans, indeed join in this, as well as in other items of
Huli fun and humour."
An interesting possibility to speculate about is suggested in the
Dictionary of Vedic Rituals by Chitrabhanu Sen (Concept, Delhi 1978, p.
168, s.v. holakA): "a minor rite performed by maidens who are desirous of
attaining good fortune; RAkA is the deity; also called HolAkA, etc. -
KATHaka gRhyasUtra LXXIII.1."
But we should probably be wary of the pitfall referred to in the
following quote from Moore (p. 212): "A punster, as he ought to be called,
rather than an etymologist; or perhaps, he was ridiculing the strained
application of a pliant etymology; derived our holiday from huli day."
Jan Filipsky, Oriental Institute, Pod vodarenskou vezi 4,
182 08 Praha 8
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