Today's New Activity: Celebrating Holi
which gave the whole desire-to-smear-colors-all-over-strangers a giant green light :)
My friend Nessa invited me to come along with her and some new friends, Brenna and Evan, for today's festivities. I was so happy about that, because I've been wanting to join in this fun for a few years now...but I never remember about it until a week later, or just later that day when I see people walking around covered in head-to-toe color.
Holi is a Hindu festival that is celebrated at the onset of spring, and I've just learned from my friend Wikipedia that it is celebrated to commemorate one of two different events, depending upon who's telling it. One tradition says it's meant to observe the death a woman named Holika, who died when her brother Prahlada was trying to put his arrogant father in his rightful place, with respect to the Lord Vishnu. Another says has to to with the love god Kamaveda, whose disruption of Shiva's meditation led to his demise and ultimate restoration in another, symbolic love form. I'm not sure which version of the events is being celebrated by the majority of Hindus here in the Bay Area, but I'm glad they've shared it with the rest of us.
The Holi celebration held at Stanford's Sandhill Fields is put on by Asha for Education, a group which donates the festival's proceeds to the education of children in India. Paid admission to the event gets you, first, a friendly "Happy Holi!" from these official people in vests, accompanied by a fistful of color, straight to the face.
Can you imagine?! Their whole job for the day is to welcome clean-faced, white-shirted folks through the doors with the first of many splashes of color at the hands of strangers. I would LOVE to be one of those festival ushers for the day! It's such a surprise--that first contact from a person you've never even seen before, but it's such a happy reaching out that all you can do it smile big and dive right in.
Asha also provided the colors for everyone, but they distributed them (wisely it seems) in small handfuls at a time so the supply would last the whole day.
Each booth of this kind had about 6 color passers out, working from giant sacks of colored powder and handing them out to people so eager for them you'd think it was edible, and they were starving. We were right there with them, though. And some colors were rarely passed out, so that when a person did start distributing them the crowd would shout out a collective "Greeeen!!!" and rush to the purveyor of the goods.
Once you had a handful of rainbow happiness, you were free to turn to any person in the vicinity and spread it on their back, shoulders, neck, hair, or their face, and people were of course free to respond in kind. I'd say few experiences I've had matched today's in terms of stranger intimacy--the good kind. After a while, the best part was hanging out near the entrance and having the chance to give people their first big doses of color. And some people brought their own colors--deep, deep midnight blue, vibrant purple and magenta, and the happiest shade of marigold--which stood out brilliantly.
And what would this festival have been without music?! There were performances from a number of different dance groups
And when nobody was performing, a really good DJ (or maybe it was recorded, I'm not sure) was playing all the most popular Bollywood hits for the happy crowd of revelers. It actually made me really miss watching Bollywood movies and listening to the songs, which I haven't done in a while. Being quite sure my music-loving son digs that music and dancing, I'm going to start watching and listening to them with him.
This picture was taken about one hour into our time there, so we were all plenty more covered by the time we left, but it was the best kind of dirty that grownups are allowed to have in public. I have no idea how monumental a task it's gonna be to get all this color out tonight, but whatever it takes, it'll be worth it :)
I'll end with this song, which isn't new but which I heard for the first time today and liked instantly. The lyrics are totally joy riding gangsta, but I like the beat and the sound of it.