The LA Times has an article on a Holi festival that took place in southern California last weekend:
About 150 people from Southern California gathered Saturday at Arcadia Park to celebrate Holi â€” the Pan-Indian “festival of colors,” a holiday celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and some Muslims that rejoices in the coming of spring and the triumph of good over evil. It is considered a major Hindu festival.
According to whom? I’m a Southie, and as far as I know, playfully throwing water balloons and colored powder at one another isn’t really our thing.
The reporter also gives a run-down on the history of Holi:
One version of the tale tells of Prehlad’s father, Hiranyakshipu, an evil man who wanted Prehlad to worship him, not the Hindu god Vishnu. After many attempts to change his son’s mind, Hiranyakshipu decides to burn him to death, and his aunt, Holika, is to help. In the end, Holika is burned to death and Prehlad is saved.
A woman is burned alive to save her nephew — what a wonderful reason to celebrate!
Another story is about the Hindu god Krishna, who is said to have lived 5,000 years ago. He enjoyed dalliances with the milkmaids, especially Radha. On Holi, Krishna asked his mother why his skin was darker than Radha’s. His mother told him to rub paint on her. She retaliated and eventually, all the villagers joined in. Since then, Holi has also been celebrated with colors.
I always thought Holi had little religious significance and had more to do with celebrating the beginning of spring and the harvest. But maybe that’s just the Chicago grad in me talking. In any case, Professor Vinay Lal of UCLA has his explanation of Holi:
Holi is something anybody can take part in because you do not need anything, just water and color. You can go to the home of an upper-caste person and throw water at them and rub color on them. But the following day, everything reverts back to normal.
So it’s really all about having a day to whoop some upper-caste ass. On a lighter note, the last part of the article made me smile:
In the United States, celebrants said it was a good day to take time off from hectic days of work, relax with friends and family and to renew friendships. “If you are on bad terms with someone, you don’t need to speak words to them,” said Sonia Anand, 35, of Arcadia. “Sometimes the words hold you back, and all you need is some color and a hug.”
Sounds more like the Holi I know.