Baptized by Holi Powder

April 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, today my university celebrated Holi, the Hindu festival where people throw colored powder at one another and just have a wild time.

I won’t pretend I know everything about Holi. I know next to nothing about it aside from the whole paint thing but apparently a quick wikipedia search turned up this:

In most areas, Holi lasts about two days. Holi lowers (but does not remove completely) the strictness of social norms, which includes gaps between age, gender, status, and caste. Together, the rich and poor, women and men, enjoy each other’s presence on this joyous day. No one expects polite behavior; as a result, the atmosphere is filled with excitement, fun and joy.

Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival Holi. The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colors and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hindu mythology. Although it is the least religious holiday, it is probably one of the most exhilarating ones in existence. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw colored powder at each other, and celebrate wildly.

I don’t know, I really loved the idea that people could just be people for once. You know, truly live, laugh, and love in the moment.

Of course, I didn’t know that beforehand; one of the kids on my dorm floor just came barging in, yelling that Holi was going on up on the rez quad and who wants to join him?

I dithered, my friends dithered (after all, we have work to do), but then ultimately I decided to go because hell, why not? And so my friends joined me as well because they shrugged and thought, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

It was amazing. You could see the haze of colored powder as we were walking up the hill. The rez quad itself was covered in a wriggling, turbulent mass of people in varying shades all blending and swirling together like some sort of living kaleidoscope. There were purples, blues, pinks, reds, greens, and then the whites, browns, yellows, grays, blacks, of people’s clothing beneath all the paint.

I ran into the middle where it seemed like people were distributing the powder bags and was able to grab a red, then a pink bag but not before I was ambushed by a friend skillfully wielding green powder. Green streaks trailed their ghostly fingers up my neck like the caress of some long-forgotten lover. Another friend smashed maroon powder into my face, making me choke on the gritty dryness blooming in my mouth. My spit was a lovely color for some time afterward. I also looked like I had just killed and eaten some animal that had maroon-colored blood. I smushed pink powder through my hair, hoping to dye it my favorite color.

I got drenched in water at some point too; the paint trickled down my arms and legs like multicolored tears of various emotions, as many emotions as there were shades of paint. The colors swirled together, swirling my emotions together as well and I became lost, so lost, in the ecstasy of the moment.

Forget all the stress, the loss, the pain, in the here and now, in this great surging mass of color and breath, there is only living, laughing, shouts and yells and screams of Life. We are all alive, together, in this moment.

Soon, too soon, all the powder was gone. There were shouts of disappointment which were quickly swallowed up by the beating, rhythmic music, so much like a rapid heartbeat, reminding us all yet again that we were alive, alive, Alive! The wriggling and surging quickly morphed into dancing, swaying, arms going up not to throw the rainbow but to let the music flow all the way through the fingertips. The music floated in the air, dispersing like an invisible powder of its own, coloring us, our lives, our dancing.

And then finally, my friends and I had to go, turn our backs on the beautiful, colored people. After all, we have work to do. We trudged back, taking pictures, and returned to our dorm soon enough. We all took showers, letting all the colors wash away. I rinsed the maroon-colored blood from my face, wiped away the ghostly green caresses, but kept the pink in my hair.

After all, I might have work to do, might not be able to avoid the pain forever, but all that doesn’t mean I have to wash away all the Life, do I?

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