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Indian Holiday is Springtime Festival of Colors
The Epoch Times
3/17/2004



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The first weekend in March saw the second-largest Indian holiday of the year, Holi: The Festival of Colors. The Rajdhani Mandir in Chantilly, Va., was the perfect place to experience Holi.

Rajdhani Mandir is a Hindu and Jain Temple in Chantilly, just outside of Washington, D.C. For the Hindu community in the area, Rajdhani Mandir is an oasis, where people come to be with God, relax and spend some time away from the traffic jams and shopping malls. The serene, wooded surroundings of the Mandir, and its vast, well-lit and quiet prayer hall make it a favorite location of the local Hindu and Jain communities.

The Holi Festival drew a crowd larger than the Mandir’s average congregation, packing the temple with beautiful traditional outfits. The ladies all wore bright orange, yellow and red gowns; visually, it was as warm as the springtime sun, complemented with sashes decorated with intricate designs, and as vibrant as springtime flowers. The crowd was in good spirits, welcoming visitors at this happy occasion.

The delightful smell of authentic incense burning in various locations in the foyer greeted one as soon as the temple threshold was crossed. Alok, a guide met at the Mandir’s entrance, led the way into the prayer hall, a large, expansive room of classical architecture. Hindu and Jain statues, some black and some white, lined three walls of the great room. Alok explained that the black figures came from the south of India, where black marble is in abundance, and the white figures were from the north, where white marble is used.

In the underground hall, there was a market offering perfume, clothing, incense, food and statues. An adjacent room contained a stage where group after group of local performers danced to Indian music. Since Holi is considered a secular holiday, most of the music came from soundtracks from Bollywood movies (Bollywood is India’s movie market, the largest in Asia).

The event was Indian, so it was, of course, a family affair. India is known for its tight family units - one of the virtues and strengths of the culture - and a value often missing within the hustle and bustle of the modern U.S. lifestyle. It is hard not to be impressed by the joyful familial atmosphere accentuated by the abundance of babies, cute as can be, in their bright, ornate gowns and traditional outfits, spoiled with attention from their mothers and grandmothers. Young people playfully painted each other’s faces with traditional bright powders, and the old folks were thrilled as they watched the younger generations dance on stage.

The Mandir celebrates all major Hindu festivals, including Holi, Janmashtami, Diwali, Shivratri and Navratri. A children’s cultural program is part of every festival celebration. It gives the children an opportunity to show off their talent as well as mingle with others.

The Celebration of Holi

Holi is the official ringing in of spring. It has its roots in Hinduism, but is now considered a secular holiday, as it is recognized throughout India. Called the Festival of Colors, it is representative of the emergence of flowers, trees and new life. The festival falls on the first full moon of March, when the North winds officially yield to the warm southern breezes, a happy time in India because harvests can soon be reaped and bundled. Holi is the mark of rebirth and renewal; a celebration of life, love, unblemished joy and good spirits.

The Spirit of Holi

The colors of Holi are an expression of Nature’s springtime mood. As much as they are a reflection of the world’s surface, the colors are also a reflection of the emotion of all living things during this special transition of the seasons. In particular the human heart rejoices as the opportunity to recharge the vitality of mind, body and spirit arises. This is a time for people to harmonize with nature, and passionately embrace the pulse of the life within all beings.

The History of Holi

Holi has an ancient origin. On a level deeper than the seasonal transition, it is the celebration of good conquering evil.

Holi is associated with burning because of an ancient legend about a demon king named Hiranyakashipu, who wished to avenge the slaying of his brother by Lord Vishnu. In Hinduism, Lord Vishnu, one of the supreme trio, is believed to balance life and death in the universe. The demon king desperately wanted Vishnu’s position in the heavens, so he performed a ritual for many years in order to gain enough power to do so. After many ages he was granted a blessing. Under the impression that he was invincible, the demon king Hiranyakashipu ordered everyone in his kingdom to worship him instead of Lord Vishnu. The demon king had a young son named Prahalad who refused the order and continued to pray to Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his son, and he asked his sister Holika, who was immune to fire, to carry out the despicable deed. They lit a pyre, and Holika took Prahalad and sat on top of it, refusing to let the boy go. Due to his heartfelt loyalty to Lord Vishnu, the boy was granted the immunity to fire enjoyed by the demon Holika; at the same time, her power was stripped away, causing her to burn to ashes. Even today, bonfires are lit on Holi-eve, the eve of the full moon, to burn to spirit of evil.

The Tradition of Face Painting

Bright colored powders are mixed with water to create face paint. This paint is then smeared on the face of all who participate in the festival. This tradition is the most noted and unique feature of Holi.

The origins lie within another Hindu story. Krishna was the king of Dwarka, a man believed to be the earthly incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself, and in addition is credited with popularizing Holi. Krishna was mischievous as a child, and that is the inspiration for the lighthearted and playful atmosphere of Holi. During the springtime, after being cooped up all winter, the young Krishna would run around and drench the village girls in water and colors. The girls would be shocked, but everyone loved Krishna so much, that soon their anger melted away like the recently departed snow. Of course the other boys in the village thought Krishna was a genius, and soon started drenching the girls themselves, thus starting the tradition. As Krishna got older, the games became a way of flirting and showing affection.

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