Friday, March 29, 2013

Wishing You a Colorful Life

When I found out I would be coming to India, one of the things I was looking forward to was Holi. Last July, my best friend and I traveled to Kentucky to participate in the Color Run, which is a 5K that donates most of its earnings to a local charity. While you are running, you get doused in a paint-like substance and covered in color. They advertise this as “the Happiest 5k on the Planet,” and that it is. I do not know this for sure, but the idea MUST come from Holi, the happiest day on the planet.

Photos from the color run (summer 2012). 

Holi marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month. The religious meaning behind Holi can be found in ancient Indian mythology, and there are many such meanings, but suffice it to say that now the holiday is celebrated simply to have lots of fun. It is a time to say farewell to winter, to welcome spring with lots of colors, and to celebrate good harvests and fertile land. Although this is the least religious holiday, Holi is the most exciting one.

In a nutshell, Holi involves powdered color and lots of it. You literally run around with packets of color in your hand, rubbing the color on peoples' faces and saying, “Happy Holi.” And then once you get really into it, it escalates. Without asking permission, you begin tricking people and pouring color all over them, not just their faces. The worst trick: spraying liquid color. That stuff stains your skin for a couple of days. The clothes you wear on Holi should be ones you no longer want, as they will look totally different when the day is over.

In Guwahati, Fancy Bazaar is the biggest place to celebrate. Over 10,000 people come together to create a color-powdered storm. I should point out that this is not particularly safe for woman. On Holi, a popular drink is Bong, which includes all types of powerful things, so I was advised by many friends that it is best to celebrate within your apartment building or at a friend’s house. I recently received an e-mail from my dad of a news article in the Times of India describing how the Kamrup metro here tried to ban such crazy Holi activities.

Holi lasts two days (March 27 and 28, but the main day is March 27). Men are allowed to touch women to rub the color on their faces or arms. In most of India, men touching women in public is not acceptable. But on Holi, everybody is playing with everybody. Men are rubbing color on women's faces. The poor are rubbing color on the rich. Ethnicities are crossed. Presumably religious lines are as well.

I celebrated by going to Pinky’s house (of course). We ate (of course) and played around with the family going CRAZY with color. We ran around the village screaming Happy Holi. People would come out of their houses so that we could dip our hands in our packets of color and streak the color across their faces. By the end of the morning, I actually had so much color on me that I looked black. The drive home was so much fun because every person on the street was covered in color. It was hard to spot one person NOT covered in color. (Even Pinky’s cows had color on them). Once I got home, there was another Holi hour at my apartment building. And then, after that, I rinsed off and went to yet another Holi festival on the river. It was more of the same thing: playing Holi and dancing.

Pinky's family and friends (Pinky's mom is in the front). 
Even Pinky's cows had Holi color thrown on them! 
People have asked me what my favorite Indian festival is because there are so many. So far, this is my favorite. I loved running around throwing color on people and people throwing color on me. This holiday represented the excitement and craziness of India. It was a day filled with screaming and laughing and tricking.

Sending smiles and a “Happy Holi” from India,

LOTS of photos from Holi:



Pinky, her sister, 
Holi hurkie!
Pinky's brother
Pinky all colorful. 
Too colorful. It took way too long to try and take this all off. 
Riding home from Pinky's (Me, An (Olivia's friend), and Olivia).  
Color everywhere.  
Cheesing on the Bhramaputra River. 
A Holi dance party. 
Covered in color! 

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