Kaamana Habba, as children that is how we knew Holi that falls on full Moonday in phallgun. Growing up in Mysore, I did not know there was anything called Holi.
Kaamana Habba was celebrated in an unique way in Mysore. Custom had it that boys should ‘steal’ logs and cow dung cakes from neighbours during the day. The girls stayed home helping mothers make holige which would be offered to Kamadeva in a big agnikund. The boys would have all the fun in the evening by setting the ‘ stolen goods’ to fire and dance around it singing ‘kaamana kattige, Bheemana berani’! All in all, it was a Boys Day Out and I remember being envious of my younger brother.
The story behind kaamana Habba goes like this. Kaama means desires, the main impediment for our progress on the path of spirituality. Once Lord Shiva was in samadhi and all the Devas felt threatened. They somehow wanted to stop him from becoming all powerful. So, they send Manmatha and Rathi to disturb His samadhi by their sensual song and dance. Lord shiva gets angry at this impudence and opens his third eye. Manmatha who symbolises Kaama is burnt to ashes immediately. It probably means with awareness all of us can destroy desires.
However, the story goes that Rathi implores lord shiva to restore her husband to her which He does but with one condition, that he will be physically available and visible only to Rathi. Manmatha pervades everyone even today and for ages to come but he is not visible, ‘ ananga’ , formless.
As Sadhaks we must watch out on this day whether our kaamanas are an impediment; if found yes, burn them in the fire of knowledge.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s message for Holi: