Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim History of Celebrating Hindu Holi

Badshah Bahadur Shah Zafar playing Holi
Badshah Bahadur Shah Zafar playing Holi

Holi has a Muslim history as well. Revered Sufi saints like Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and Ameer Khusro in their chaste Persian and Hindvi poetry have adored the ‘pink’ festival generously.

Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar, whose Holi phags (songs) are even relished today and who allowed his Hindu ministers to tinge his forehead with gulal on the day of the festival each year, writes: “Kyon mo pe mari rang ki pichkari, Dekho kunwarji doon gi gari…” (Why am I with colour sprinkled – By me now you will be abused).

During the Shahjahani tenure of Delhi, Holi was known as Eid-e-Gulabi (pink Eid) or Aab-e-Pashi (shower of colourful flowers), and truly so owing to its carnival spirit and hysterical rejoicing for both the major Indian communities.

The umaras (nobles), the rajahs and the nawabs all exchanged rose-water bottles and sprinkled scented water on each other along with the frenzied beating of nagaras (big drums).

This enlightened spirit percolated in the Mughals right from the time of Akbar. Even Jahangir is shown holding Holi festivities in his autobiography Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. Many artists especially Govardhan and Rasik have shown Jahangir playing Holi with Noorjahan, his wife. Mohammed Shah Rangila, in a remarkable painting, is shown running around the palace with his wife following him with a pichkari (water spout).

Read more: Communal Harmony

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