Monday, May 12, 2014

Colorful Weekend: Holi

Did I have a colorful weekend or what?
First the Tulip Festival, then this:
Holi Color Festival!
For the past several years I have been wanting to photograph a Holi Festival of Colors.
There are two locations near SLC that have day long Holi Fests, and one of them is about ten minutes from my house.

I have hesitated to go to a Holi Festival since it has its roots in Hindu mythology.
Depending on how "reverent" one is, the holiday is mostly seen as a Spring time fun time when folks  toss colored powder on each other or spray colored water about.
Folks wear white and "coloring" someone is part of the fun.
Young men get a bit rowdy and frisky shall we say...both teasing girls and pelting their guy friends playfully.
Blowing off steam after a long winter and celebrating the return of springtime color.
Digging a bit deeper into the religious element:
 There is Hindi mythology about Krishna and over coming evil with good (a common theme in Hinduism.)
Worship in the form of chanting Krishna is encouraged, but then again, the Krishna followers tend to chant all the time anyway.

I would liken Holi color festivals to be about a religious as the Christian's Santa Claus songs and motifs.
Yeah, there is a "Saint" involved with Santa Claus but few folks pray to him or focus on him as a spiritual being.
Fun and legends, stories and customs abound with Santa (I gagged to hear how many "legends" have arose to make candy canes and cookies spiritually instructive.  Seriously, stick to the Gospels.  There's enough there without adding to the narrative!)
On a different note: Notice the camera boom in the photo above.

When I arrived the cameras were being tightly wrapped with saran wraps against the billowing colors and the camera lens itself had to be blown clear of color powder at regular intervals.

The Holi festival I attended is actually the smaller of the two here.
The one in Spanish Fork is probably three times as big.

The more color the better!
As one writer pointed out, once one is covered in color, everyone looks the same, and in India during Holi class systems are ignored.
I didn't get pelted as much as most folks but did regularly feel the soft tickle of powder landing on my arm and back.
I have a feeling the younger folks were hesitant to really throw lots of color on an old lady wandering around by herself.  Still I got enough color to blend in with the crowd.
Some enterprising soul took it upon himself to sell plastic seat covers to those leaving the festival.
For a buck I bought in; my pants and white tee shirt would otherwise make a real mess in my car.
My seat belt still got enough powder on it to "color" Bernie the next morning as we drove to church.
I spent some time vacuuming my car out once we got home.
I did consult with several Christian leaders about how "kosher" it would be for me to attend a Holi Festival.
The consensus was that it is a good thing for Christians to attend other culture's celebrations.
I prayed on it and felt it was OK to go too.
Here's some more info on the Hindi legend associated with the festival.
From Wikipedia: There is a symbolic legend to explain why holi is well celebrated as a colour fest. The word "Holi" originates from "Holika", the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, felt he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him.[1]
Hiranyakashipu's own son, Prahlada,[14] however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu.[11] This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika - Prahlada's evil aunt - tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her.[1] Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada.[11] Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika.[12] The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.

There were several carnival type rides set up on the grounds too.
Indian food could be purchased and Hindi books as well.
I was struck by the sight of several regularly dressed young men sitting on a curb reading a book on Hinduism.
What sort of things do we as Christians offer that would cause young people to come and enjoy and then pick up a book to read on our God?
While folks threw colors at each other at will, every hour there was a count down and everyone threw colors up in the air at once.
I stayed for two official throws; the second one everyone practiced doing "The Wave" several times before finally throwing the colors up into the air in a rolling wave.

I have to admit:
The color throws were surreal and beautiful.
Some of the colors were incense scented too.
The fragrance in the breeze was wonderful.
I also had to wonder:  Imagine if all communities had such an event every year.
Imagine the church members who have gotten a bit stuffy or a bit irritated with each other.
An opportunity to throw colors at each other might just be the thing to set things right again.
Could anyone stay mad after this sort of crazy color fun?
I think not.

People spontaneously added their palm prints to the side of one building.
Another community building tradition in my opinion.

Parents helped color the smaller children.

And the small children colored their parents gleefully.

Pouches the size of sandwich bags filled with dyed corn starch were sold at the festival.
No one could bring in colors from outside; the ones for sale were organic and non toxic.
Some folks wore surgical masks or bandannas but for the most part the powder really wasn't that hard on the breathing.

One booth offered henna tattooing.
Some year I think I'd like to have my hands dyed with a henna design.
(Some year before age spots complete their design on the back of my hand on their own.)

I am not sure what company is marketing Holi Festival of Colors nation wide.
From what I am reading, it is getting to be a very popular event and growing more so with every passing year.
Interestingly there is also something called a Color Run that is being held all over America.
Runners sign up to run and at each segment completed they are pelted with a different color.
At the end of the run everyone is a colored almost as brightly as a Holi celebrator.

Dandelions bloomed profusely in the surrounding fields and making dandelion chains for crowns was a sweet free past time for these folks.
(I  had tucked my camera under my shirt between photos and somehow I had switched my camera from auto to manual without noticing hence the fuzzy photo that I nevertheless rather like.)
The  festival leaders took pride in the fact that no one left litter on the ground and while there were security guards on the grounds the event was really quite peaceful.
Before and after each count down throw everyone was encouraged to hug the person standing next to you.
I gave a fellow photographer a quick hug...we were standing at the edge of the field trying to get the best view of the throw.
We smiled at each other and then aimed out cameras out to the crowd.
Check out the plastic clad camera man!
A stage held some rocking rock bands that were really good.
The Master of Ceremony introduced one group as being the second most popular Holi band nationally, and the band hailed from San Diego.
Go figure!
Rock music was played with Krishna's name popped into the lyrics randomly.
That was rather amusing to me.
The guy in white gave a brief address to the crowd.
He spoke about God, and that the main identifier of God is always LOVE.
He stressed that the Creator God made everything and everyone and then He rested.
(I was with him with this thought...nice to hear Creationism being touted!)
He pointed out that if one does not love, one does not know God.
If one is working so hard to succeed that one doesn't have time to love his wife and children , it is not right.
He added we should call upon God's name to provide all our needs and to receive love to give to others.
(So good.)
He encouraged everyone to call upon God's Name.
God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Krishna...all are names of God (um...I disagreed with that...) and we were encourage to call upon and chant the name of God that WE used.
Since we were on the grounds of the Krishna Temple, the God name Krishna would be chanted from here.
He added that if "they" (the Krishna) were to come to other places of worship the next day, on Sunday, they would happily chant the name of our God in our places of worship.
I have to admit I got a chuckle out of imagining a shaved head dotted forehead harem pant wearing Krishna guy popping into an LDS Ward or Catholic Cathedral or Jewish Synagogue and standing in the pew barefooted while chanting "Jesus...Jesus...Jesus" at the ward or church or "Baruch a Shem" at the synagogue.

There was a large sign declaring that filming for a documentary was going on throughout the day and entering into the area was to give consent to be filmed.
I think it will be a miracle if anything they film will be usable through all the colors floating through the air.
I will be on the look out for the film's release.
Until's one of the more famous Holi movie scenes currently out there for you to enjoy!



ellen b. said...

I remember this festival/custom from the Amazing Race one season. It is colorful.

Purrfect Haven said...

Thank you for visiting us. Always lovely that you do. Amazing festival... What colour! Love Helen, Darcy and brother Bingley xxx

Sara said...

Very colorful indeed! I liked your comment about maybe some of us are getting a bit too stuffy and it would be a wonderful thing to do something as lighthearted as this. Throw those colors around! With delight!

Lovella ♥ said...

I haven't ever heard of this festival before but then our Hindu population is smaller than the Seik population here. The henna tattoo is very popular here and I'm always amazed at the intricacy of the designs.

Vee said...

= D I promise you that I didn't purposely ignore this post. It got lost in the bottom of the stack. My apologies. Well now, you are a fun-loving gal! This is perhaps on the final ten list of fun things to do. It reminds me of, I wasn't there...were you? ROFL! I do think it would appeal mightily to the grands, but it's just easier to use silly string. Hope that you were able to get the stain from Bernie's shirt.

Vee said...

I knew that didn't sound right as it was zipping off...hence my being back today to check. And now I am afraid that if I attempt to correct it, I'll just put my foot further into my mouth so let's leave it at this: your post makes me grin and I think you are a hip and happening gal.

Pondside said...

Wow! That is really something. I enjoyed the video - can they ever make that dancing look like fun and rather easy! I don't think I'll be trying it soon, though. The funniest thing is that as I watched the clip, up popped an ad for getting grass stains out of anything - didn't say anything about paint!