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!


Tulip Festival: Light of the World Garden

This is Part 2 of the Colorful Weekend/Thanksgiving Point Tulip Festival blogging that I posted last week.
I've been busy...spring weather has meant lots of fun so my inside blogging time has been delayed!

The Thanksgiving Point Italian garden/water feature floral designs change seasonally.
Five years ago the color scheme was pink tulips.
Orange/yellow is a pretty color combo too!

Especially since orange feathered birds are using the water feature as a bird bath.

By the way...the tulips are HUGE.
I am touching that tulip.

Avian spa day.
Aren't they cute?

There was a goddess like sculpture at the top of the water fall; her head was being used as a perch!
(and more...tee hee...)

Of course children were dipping their hands in the water cascading down the fountain.
Who could blame them...not me!


A hauntingly beautiful video was filmed here.
Remember Arwen the girl Elf from Lord of the Rings?
The Utah based Piano Guys wrote a song capturing that longing love story.

After visually soaking in that incredible water feature, I strolled on, enjoying the tulips...

and the narcissus.
Just grooving on the colors and scents when suddenly I saw this:

Jesus, twice human sized, walking on billowing waters.

And Jesus carrying His Cross.
I was stunned.

I could hardly breath I was so astonished at the beauty of the sculptures that had not known were in the garden.

Surrounding the huge Walking on Water and The Cross sculptures were many other smaller, table sized sculptures of readily (to me at least) recognizable scenes from the Life of Jesus.
The Woman at the Well...

Healing the Leper...

The Woman with an Issue of Blood.

Look at the expression on Christ's face as He senses that His garment has been touch as He is walking to heal the Centurion's daughter.

Close up of the leper.

Jesus praying...

Mary and Martha, with Mary at the feet of Jesus as Martha bustles about.

When I finally saw the plans for an entire garden with ALL the small sculptures being installed in twice life size I was rejoicing.
Only later did I learn that the artist was a self taught sculpture artist, a woman who had intended to sing opera, and had trained for that that when that goal became unattainable.
She prayed that God would reveal to her what purpose and gifting He had given to her.
She felt led to buy a block of clay, and sculpted a child's bust.
When it was done she knew how God intended to use her.
She sculpts to the Glory of God.

This was one of the three full sized sculptures.
The hand of Jesus reaching for the chick...oh so tender.

The woman caught in adultery...

What did Jesus write with His finger that day?

Next to the Walking on Water sculpture, the most moving one was of Lazarus awaking in his tomb.

 I can't wait to see this one done twice life size.

Close up of Jesus and Lazarus's sister.

Praying in the garden on the night He was betrayed.

The furrowed brow, the intensity of His face, the strain in His neck is incredible.

A close up of one of the waves from the Walking on Water sculpture.
The artist herself walked on the clay water as she worked to create the piece.

The crown of thorns was amazing.

Reach in Faith. 

If this scene doesn't ring any is because it is an LDS scene.
Yes, the sculptures are done by a LDS woman, and Thanksgiving Point is owned by an LDS family.
Scriptures are written on stone in garden.
I will leave it at that.

My photos are as best as I could do lit by an overhead mid day sun.
I invite you to see a 1:40 second video of the garden filmed beautifully with one of my favorite hymns.

Eventually I managed to continue on seeing the tulips which seemed wild after such a sacred space.

I kept looking back at Jesus walking on the water.

He walked on water...His Spirit is with me as I walk in on.

The topiary carousel was yet to be planted.

I wonder what it will look like in bloom.

I next headed to the waterfalls and bought a frozen orangeade as it was getting warm.
Children were merrily rolling down the sloping lawns and families were picnicking together.

The water roar is wonderful.

Rainbows appear in unexpected spray filled nooks.

Wisteria blossoms filled the air with their oriental fragrance.

Leaving the garden, heading back to the parking lot, I see the snow capped mountains in the distance.

A toddler baby has lost her sweet bunny sock...

There were so many, many toddlers and babies that day!
I smiled to see more than a few elderly mothers being wheeled along surrounded by what looked to be great grandchildren in their own wheeled devices.

A few retired couples walked along together as well.
It is the kind of place that is just perfect for all ages.

I will go back there in a couple of weeks.
The tulips will be gone from the garden by then, and ready to be offered to folks like me who will be happy to give them a new home.