Here in Utah, we have a Krishna temple waaaay down in Spanish Fark.."The Lake Elsinore of Utah". The Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, built to house Utah's booming Hindu community (..Booming? Really?) puts on great festivals throughout the year. The Festival of Colors, otherwise known as Holi, is by far the most well attended event at the temple all year, and commemorates.. well...stuff. Lots of stuff. So much stuff that I decided to only choose 3 stuffs to talk about. So here it goes!
First of all, Holi is a spring celebration. The seasons are changing, flowers are blooming, colors are bright, animals are doin' it...everything that comes with spring. To commemorate that, people throw colored chalk, or spray liquid pigment all over each others faces and bodies. So there's that.
Secondly, Holi commemorates the story of the evil non burning, burning witch..Which begins with the story of Hiranyakashyapu...and involves a boon. The story made little sense to me, until I looked up what, exactly, a boon is. Contrary to my belief, a boon is not a shortened word for Baboon. This story, sadly, has no monkeys in it. A boon, is a blessing earned through penance. Anyways, Hiranyakashyapu asked that for his boon, he be granted immortality. The whole not dying thing eventually went to his head, and he began to demand that he be worshiped as a god. Everyone around pretty much went along with it, because..ya know..he was invincible and that makes a pretty good argument for godliness, except for his son, Prahlada, who worshiped Vishnu instead. Well, that didn't sit well with Pops, so he called in his sister Holika, who had a magical shawl that protected her from fire, to kill his son. Prahlada, who was a good kid but not the brightest, decided to climb into a bonfire with weird aunt Holika. I dunno, the idea sounded good at the time I guess. Shockingly, Prahlada started to burn (again, not the smartest kid), but as he chanted Vishnu's name for help, a gust of wind blew Holika's shawl off and the flames jumped off Prahlada's body and onto Holika's instead. So at Holi, to commemorate Holika's virtuous nephew and her dick brother, an effigy of her is burned while people shout "Burn the Witch!". So there's that stuff, too.
Thirdly, there is my favorite Holi tradition,and by far the best of the many, many rituals (there are seriously a crap load of rituals depending on the village Holi is celebrated in), which involves women beating the shit out of men with sticks while bystanders sing sexy tunes. This tradition originates in the city of Barsana, and is called Lath mar Holi. According to Wikipedia (I write a blog, not for Frommer's, so I can source Wiki),
"Barsana is the place to be at the time of Holi. Here the famous Lath mar Holi is played in the sprawling compound of the Radha Rani temple. Thousands gather to witness the Lath Mar holi when women beat up men with sticks as those on the sidelines become hysterical, sing Holi Songs and shout Sri Radhey or Sri Krishna. The Holi songs of Braj mandal are sung in pure Braj Bhasha.
Holi played at Barsana is unique in the sense that here women chase men away with sticks. Males also sing provocative songs in a bid to invite the attention of women. Women then go on the offensive and use long staves called lathis to beat men folk who protect themselves with shields."Do we really have to guess why this happens? Are you dying to know? This ritual commemorates this one time when the women of Barsana got pissed off at Krishna for making fun of them and chased him off with sticks. Imagine, women getting mad for being relentlessly teased. So there's that stuff, too.
Regardless of tradition, or religion, Holi is a time to celebrate spring, rebirth, bonfires and man beatings. And yes, I saw God for a brief second..no not during Lath mar Holi..but looking around at the thousands of people gathered together, dancing to bad cover bands, acting like painted idiots, having a good time together. Lets face it, the majority of Utahn's at Holi weren't Hindu, but that didn't matter. We were all just people, having an experience together.
Some pictures from the festival...
|the main throwing that occured after the lighting of the bonfire and effigy burning|