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Holi Festival

The Most Fun You Can Have At Religious Festival

I should have known more about the Hindu Holi Festival than I did. I am married to a Hindu Man after all. Okay, I am married to a lapsed Hindu man.  Okay, who am I kidding, he is a “collapsed” Hindu man.  He eats the cow, he only half-ass speaks the language and doesn’t really keep up on any of the pujas or deities.

He is also the guy who orders ice cream at the McDonald’s drive-thru with a thick Indian accent and then speaks in his totally North American regular voice at the pick-up window.  This is of great amusement to our children and great confusion to the poor McDonald’s staffer who has had to muddle through my husband’s order of “Tree Deep Con”.

I want our children to be familiar with their Indian roots and culture but suffice it to say, dear hubbie has not been a beacon of knowledge. So when we were living in city with a large Indian population and happened to be out and about one day and saw peeps of Indian descent throwing brightly colored powder at each other, I didn’t expect much when I asked him what that was all about. To his credit he told me, “That is the Holi festival, it has something to do with spring.” Not exactly a detailed explanation but it was something.

A couple of years later we were participating in a “Color Run” – essentially a Holi festival co-opted by the running community where you throw the powder at one another while running and wearing Nikes.  It was time for me to look into this further.  It is probably the most exuberant and pure fun religious tradition I’ve encountered so I thought it would do for ThingsToEatAndDo.com to share the origins and details of this festival.

To help me, I have enlisted my husband’s cousin and award winning photographer, Satyam Roy Chowdhury, to share some information and his amazing photography of the festival.  Not only is he a talented photographer but he actually lives in India and is clearly a much better source of information than my errant husband!

Although Holi ( /ˈhl/Sanskrit: होली Holī) is an ancient Hindu religious festival, it is celebrated by many non-Hindus in South Asia as well as around the world.  And why not?  Who doesn’t want to celebrate the coming of spring, a festival of love and general frivolity?

The date of Holi is different every year and is on the day after the full moon in March.  The night before, during the full moon, bonfires are lit in town plazas and public places to burn away evil spirits and to mark the occasion. This is called the Holika Dahan – and there is singing, dancing, and general merriment around the bonfires.

The next morning it is an open-season free for all where no one is safe from being covered with colored powder, water guns with colored water or color-filled water balloons.  It doesn’t matter your age, status, or whether you are a total stranger – everyone is fair game in the open streets, outside temples and buildings. Groups play music and carry their instruments through the streets, roaming from spot to spot to sing and dance. The best foods and drinks are served and there is even some naughtiness in the refreshments… Bhang, made from cannabis leaves, is added to food, drink and sweets and consumed by many of the revelers.

As the celebration winds down towards the end of the day, families and friends clean up, sober up and come together to visit, eat, laugh, forgive past harms and repair ruptured relationships. This is truly a festival of renewal in all things, the earth, personal relationships and the embracing of new beginnings.

This sounds like the best holiday EVER.  Holi is March 24 in 2016.  I think we need to start planning.  And if a trip to India isn’t in your immediate future, I think you should start planning your very own Holi festival. You can even order the colored powder on Amazon.com. As for the “Bhang”?  You might need to celebrate Holi in Colorado!

Satyam Roy Chowdhury is a professional photographer and graphic designer living in Kolkata, India.  He works in both the commercial and artistic arenas.  He has won contests and awards with Nikon, Canon, National Geographic,  Light & Composition and many others.  He is currently working on a project to capture images of village life in India.

We hope to feature the beautiful and insightful photography of Satyam Roy Chowdhury in future. If you are interested in these photos or would like to see his other work please contact him at pom2703@gmail.com.

(It should be noted that until I saw his Facebook profile I never knew what his proper name was as he was always referred to as “Pom” – a whole other Indian thing)

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