Special songs such as chowtals are rendered, accompanied by two major instruments - the dholak[small hand drum] and majeera [small cymbals]. The music is fast-paced and extremely infectious. Pichakaree songs are performed only at the celebrations organised by the Hindu Prachar Kendra. This musical genre is a mix of Hindi and English ballads invented mainly as a response to the derogatory calypsoes about Hindus, and Indian in general, sung during Carnival. The name pichakareee is derived from the syringe-like device used to dispense abeer during the celebration. There are competitions for chowtal and pichakaree performances at separate venues. Chowtal contestants compete in choirs (“bands”) while pichakaree performers compete as individuals. Pichakaree contestants compete in designated classifications such as the festive category, or the social and political category.
The Kendra has also introduced Makhan Chor, a sport which was the pastime of Lord Krishna when he was alive in India 5000 years ago. In this game, a human pyramid is formed with the strongest person at the bottom and the lightest at the top. The objective of the game is to reach a pot tied 18 feet above the ground. While the history of this game seems farfetched, it is meant to recreate the exploits of Lord Krishna himself. With his friends, he used the same strategy to attain butter that was hung high in a jar by his mother to deter the eager child from stealing it.
The Kendra has also introduced Ranga Barase [community dance in a shower of colours] and Bachon Ka Khel [exciting novelty games for children]. Another Kendra’s recreational activity is the sada roti-eating competition in which children compete in consuming roti with sweetened cow’s milk. The roti is held at head-height by a string and a clean plastic sheet is laid below to collect falling pieces. The contestant who finishes eating first becomes the winner. Children also participate in Rang Ka Gulaal, the powder-blowing competition.
Phagwa is also a time when Hindus, who have studied the legend of Hiranya-kashipu and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, meditate deeply on the similarities between the two stories. The similarities are too peculiar and numerous to dismiss as sheer coincidence. Both Hiranya and Macbeth were over-ambitious kings who turned into tyrants. Each plotted the murder of someone once held dear and close to him.
King Hiranya planned the murder of his own son, Prahalad. Similarly, General Macbeth murdered his king, Duncan, and usurped the throne.
Hiranya and Macbeth were both granted a boon of invincibility by supernatural beings. Hiranya was promised by Lord Brahma that he would not be killed by man or animal, in the day or night, indoors or outside, and on earth or in space. Eventually, he was slain by the avatar, Narasimha, in the incarnation of a man with a lion’s head. Hiranya was defeated at twilight (when it is neither day nor night), on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor outside), and on the avatar’s lap (neither earth nor space).