Holi, short for Holika, is a Hindu holiday celebrating the passing of winter into spring and the triumph of good over evil. In India, one day of the celebration involves a large bonfire where locals shout insults at Holika, and children play pranks in honor of Krishna, who happened to be a little prankster himself.
The legend of Holika, as well as the Holi celebration varies between Indian regions. In Barsana, for instance, men come from the land of Krishna wearing extra padding, knowing that upon their arrival, they will receive a beating from the Barsanan women, who have armed themselves with sticks. The men are not allowed to retaliate, and some of them will be captured and made to dance around in women’s clothing. I’m not sure why the men keep going to Barsana, but, as a woman, I find the whole ordeal rather amusing. However, the Holi tradition that most concerns me today is the Festival of Colors where the Indians drench one another with colored water as Krishna once did with gopis, or cow-herding girls, for his own amusement.
Holi in Southern India is more subdued, while the holiday in the north involves singing Bollywood Holi songs, dancing, colors, and drinking thandai, a drink made of milk and various seeds and spices, laced with bhang, an intoxicating substance derived from the female cannabis plant. Now if that isn’t the recipe for a good party, I don’t know what is.
Given this description, I’m convinced celebrating Holi in India would be a one-of-a-kind experience, but in Salt Lake City, locals get a small taste of the celebration with a small-scale Festival of Colors. Naturally I couldn’t resist the festival. I paid my entrance fee, I ate my Indian food, and I bought my Indian bag to replace my nasty yellow hobo, stained from airport restroom water it soaked up when I leaned against the counter to wash my hands while flying either to or from San Francisco; I can’t remember which. Ironically, I had purchased a new leather purse that trip, but I foolishly took my hand off it while riding the BART, and I walked right off the train without my brand new purse, still in its H&M bag with its freshly printed receipt. I was sad for two days.
But we were talking about the Festival of Colors.
Krishna, Krishna; hare, hare/
Hare Rama; hare Rama/
Rama, Rama; hare, hare!
Afterwards my friend and I grabbed a pizza from Papa Murphy’s, where our colorful faces were the envy of all those who had missed the festival. We ate our pizza and watched a movie back at my apartment, reluctant to wash away the colors, leaving powder all over my leather couch. When I finally did shower that night, I watched the colors mix into a dark green pool at my feet and travel in a little stream to the drain. I couldn’t get all of the color off my left hand, which retained faint purple blotches for the next couple of days, a fact which made me glad.