Fifty Shades of Color

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<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/63788349″ width=”500″ height=”281″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/63788349″>Holi Festival of Colors by Jessica Ahles</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user11074463″>J.Ahles</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
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Just before 2 o’clock, an announcer advises the crowd to take deep breaths. He says, “You’re not going to want to breath this stuff in for a minute. So enjoy the fresh air now.” In seconds, thousands of hands raise and an explosion of bright powdered paint fills the sky in rural Utah. Mantra music pulsed and cheers ensued in celebration of one of India’s most ancient and joyous holidays.  

Each year, Spanish Fork, Utah summons a pilgrimage to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors. This year, 80,000 people gathered at the Sri Sri Rhada Krishna Temple to welcome the arrival of spring at the two-day event.

“Well Holi for me was one of the best experiences ever,” said Staci Polasek, a first-time Utah Holi celebration participant. “The countdown to throw the paint was exciting and then the freedom I felt once throwing all the paint in the air was amazing. It took away all the worries and bad stuff for that short time and I could just appreciate the minute in time for everything it offered.”

The meaning of Holi stems from several stories in Hindu mythology and is believed to have its roots reaching over 2,000 years ago.

Originally referred to as “Holika,” the festival is most commonly believed to originate from the legend of the demon king, Hiranyakashyap, who had ordered his sister, Holika, to kill his son after he refused to worship his father.

Knowing Holika had the ability to enter a fire without burning herself, Hiranyakashyap ordered her to do so while holding his son, Prahlad. When Holika entered the fire, she instead was burned while Lord Vishnu saved Prahlad for his extreme devotion. 

A bonfire on the evening before Holi marks the cremation of Holika and the throwing of colors the next day represents the triumph of good over evil and kindness over cruelty.

The festival is greatly celebrated in India and takes place at the end of the winter season, on the last full moon of the lunar month. Because of this, Holi became a ritual for a good harvest year and the welcoming of spring.

During Holi, the celebration dissolves social divisions of class, wealth, age, and gender.

“Holi means a lot to me because it’s the only Indian festival where it doesn’t matter where you’re from, how rich you are, everybody is the same,” said Gaurav Singh, a University of Arizona student from Mumbai, India. “You can be yourself and nobody expects you to be polite and you can be yourself without anybody being judgmental.”

The Spanish Fork Holi festival of colors is the largest Holi festival in the Western hemisphere. From March 30 to March 31 there was live music, Indian cuisine, Chakra readings, and hourly color throws.

“It [Holi] brought so many different people together,” Polasek said. “Everyone seemed happy and living life to the fullest. It was truly awesome.”

Other activities visitor could partake in were yoga sessions and a visit to the temple’s lama farm. But of course, attendees could not avoid getting smeared with color and receiving hugs from guests.

“I went up there to see people becoming uplifted, people becoming happy by contacting their true spiritual nature,” said Nava Dwipa, a monk at the Tucson International Society for Krishna Consciousness Temple and a first-time visitor to the Utah Holi festival. “It was a very, very wonderful experience and I definitely want to go back next year.”  

The Sri Sri Rhada Krishna Temple will be holding a second Holi festival on April 20, 2013. For more information, visit www.utahkrishnas.org

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