I have been a little late in posting this, but I wanted to share how we celebrated Holi this year with our extended community in Southern CA.
But before we jump into this celebration, have you heard of Holi, the Festival of Colors where people celebrate by throwing colors on each other? While it originated in India, various Holi celebrations now take place all over the world!
The story of Holi can be found in various legends. One such legend is of an evil King named Hiranayakashipu who wanted all his subjects to worship him. No one in his kingdom was excused from his terror, not even his own son Prahlad who was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. When Prahlad refused to worship his dad, the evil king conspired with his sister, Holika to destroy the little boy for disobeying him. Knowing that Holika had a special power that made it impossible for her to burn, he asked her to take Prahlad in her lap and sit in a burning pyre. Holika obliged but soon found herself disappearing while Prahlad remained unhurt! The boy’s devotion to Lord Vishnu protected him from the evil deeds of Hiranyakashipu and Holika. This victory of good over evil is one of the legends associated with the celebration of Holi.
Held at the beginning of spring, Holi brings together entire communities where people celebrate by splashing colored powder and water on each other! The barriers of gender, age, class and religion are broken down as entire cities get painted in bright colors. Just like any other Indian festival, Holi isn’t complete without music, dance, and delicious Indian food. The underlying message is that of good over evil, of light over darkness and of celebrating new beginnings.
This year, I celebrated Holi in our local community, with storytelling and dance in collaboration with Nikita Ganatra, who runs the local Kumon Math and Reading Center in Foothill Ranch and Smita Rawal Alves of Bhakti Bhav Dance. Our ‘Holi celebration through Story Time’ was sold out within days!
Parents and kids from various cities in southern California attended the event with a desire to learn about this multicultural festival! While I read my book, 'Celebrate Holi With Me!' to a group of wide-eyed and enthusiastic kids, Smita seamlessly integrated her interpretation through Kathak dance moves to enact scenes from the book. Kids and adults learned how to use gestures, acting techniques and body postures to act like the wicked Holika and Hiranyakashipu. Embracing their inner calm just like Prahlad, they learned how to use their own breath to bring about peace within. Smita also performed a solo dance and invited kids and parents alike to learn a few of the traditional dance movements from Kathak. Very soon, she had the crowd on their feet, dancing and swaying to a beautiful song about Holi.
The evening was a tremendous success and we think this is just the beginning of something very special. Stay tuned for more events as we continue working together to raise cultural awareness in our local community.