What could be more fun than this? Shooting your sisters and parents with water pistols filled with colored water! Throwing handfuls of corn starch dyed in every color of the rainbow into your brother’s hair. Dancing in the streets wearing rags soaked by the explosion of brightly colored water-filled balloons. Rubbing colored paste into your husband’s cheeks. Dumping buckets of colored water from the upstairs window onto happy children dancing in the street below. Eating sweet pastries and drinking to the joys of life.
It’s all a part of Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors which will be celebrated in India, Nepal and across the world every Spring. As the temperatures drop and Autumn is in full swing here in Tennessee, I'm hoping springtime comes again soon, and I'm wishing that the colors of fall would be followed by the brilliant colors of Holi!
So, what’s this happy holiday all about? It’s a celebration of springtime, new awakening life, and the diversity of mankind. It’s a religious celebration of the best sort, the sort that brings people of all faiths together to revel in the joy of Good’s eternal triumph over Evil and to laugh and play and love and enjoy one another. Surely, God approves of this!
In Hindu tradition the day commemorates the triumph of Lord Vishnu over Hiranyakashipu, the liberation of mankind from the king of demons. Lord Krishna celebrated the holiday by playing pranks on the gopis (“cow herd girls”), one of whom, his favorite, Radha, had skin much fairer than his own. After complaining to his mother about the differences between his skin and Radha’s, Krishna’s mother applied color to Radha’s face, much as God has applied colors in a spectrum of hues to men and women of all races.
Holi is a festival of renewal and, most importantly, of love, peace and harmony. In the Hindu world it is not only Hindus who celebrate the holiday. Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists join in the fun and festivities in India, Nepal and throughout the Indian diaspora. Who could resist? Even in Kashmir, Muslims and Hindus come together to play Holi!
Heaven knows we need a time out from endless war. We need a break from our litigious and stressful lives. We need renewal for our souls, spirits dragged down by hate, prejudice and greed. We need to run and jump and laugh and play, and shoot each other with water guns, and we need to do it together!
I’ll be jealous when Holi season comes around again, knowing that on the other side of the world there is a party going on. I’ll be jealous, knowing that at least for a day men, women, boys and girls of all faiths are at play. And, all to the glory of God.