Saturday, March 14, 2009

Holi Moly!

When Christians celebrate Easter, they often color Easter eggs. When Hindus celebrate Holi, they color...

Well, each other.

Through a cross-cultural meetup I belong to, I got word of the Holi festival at the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago in Lemont, about an hour outside of the city.

If you ask a Hindu adult what Holi is, he may tell you that the origins of Holi are uncertain, but it is either a celebration of enlightenment over evil, or the celebration of Krisha's love for Radha.

If you ask a Hindu child what Holi is, she will probably tell you that it's when everyone throws colored powder on each other.

I showed up and parked, and saw a group of non-Indians, who turned out to be part of my group. We met inside the temple: the women were Russian; not sure about the man. We took a look around the temple, first taking off our shoes in the shoe-removal anteroom, then walking trough the large of the two temples proper. The walls were all glass, making it a very light, airy passage. The room was very long with various diety stations and antechambers. There was Ganesh, and the various Lakshmis; Krishna and Radha had their own room. It was all beautiful. No martyrs, no sorrow, no blood, just beautiful colors, fruit and money offerings, and quotes from the Gita on the wall.

We went back down to the cafeteria, where we purchased some fabulous food. I had a masala dosa; once you go prasadam, you never go back.

Then to the main hall, where a DJ was playing Indian favorites, and kids were dancing. We sat on the floor and were entertained by kids of all ages doing traditional dances. One girl decided to resort to The Macarena.

After a bit we went outside, where the sun was strong and the sky a brilliant blue. The Temple buildings were magnificent.

The powders were being sold at a table outside, and we purchased a variety of colors. We threw it on each other, rubbing it into one another's faces, dusting our hair. A couple of women with kids and a bucket of homemade red powder, smiled, and smeared our cheeks, wishing us a happy Holi. We danced, we rubbed powder into people's hair; we exchanged laughing salvos with everyone.

I became quite covered, and as I walked up the hill on which people sat, I saw a fifty-something man dressed in nice slacks and a shirt, he sat with his knees up, arms hugging them. He looked at me, saw my state, saw the bag of blue powder in my hands.

Our eyes met.

"No, no no," he smiled nervously.

I took a step forward.

"NO no no." He waved his hand side-to side nervously.

I dipped a finger into the powder. Took it out.

"I need one finger," I said.


"One finger." I held up my blue index to show what I meant. He held out his finger. ET-like, I touched it with blue powder.

"Happy Holi!" I said.

"Happy Holi," he smiled, relieved.

One little girl of about 5 was fixated on me as her target, and we chased one another around groups of people. I finally smeared her belly with yellow, which she liked very much. The man and one of the women from our group watched most of this from a spot on the ill; the other two women and I joined the crowd in front of the outside DJ and jumped into the dancing. We took our cues from the other dances, shaking our hips, waving our arms. Women joined us and danced with us; people took pictures, and one Caucasian woman who seemed to be documenting the event kept training her video camera on us.

"I think we are like min-celebrities!" one of the Russians said.

With their long blond hair, they were quite striking, covered as they were in color.

We danced and threw powder, and got powdered ourselves. By the time I left there was not a single inch of my skin not covered. It was in my hair, in my mouth, my ears. it's basically flour with food coloring, so it's benign. Although we learned that if you get it at the Indian store, you can get the intense colors we saw; we'd see someone with a deep purple or green, and chase them until they threw powder at us.

I left before the bonfire because I had a gallery reception I'd RSVP'd to in the South Loop. I had a rag in my car and had managed to wipe off a lot of the dust, but the residual red and blue made me look like someone had kicked the crap out of me. I walked in and went to the bar for a Root Beer. The woman tending looked at me, startled.

"Hindu celebration. You know." I said, taking my root beer and looking at the display (one woman had taken a bunch of pink-and-white fabrics: dresses, lingerie, etc. and created a soft wall hanging called "Episiotomy." Yeah; it was like that.)

I took my dusty face home and took a long, hot shower. I could get into this.


SP said...

I see you didn't dress up at all.

Anonymous said...

"Hindu celebration. You know."



JC said...

1. Well, there was one caucasian woman in Chanels-tyle sunglasses, wiht nicely done hair and a white trench coat. She had TARGET all over her. When we got our colors, we stood on the hill to try an dpick her out, and went into the crowd in search of her specifically. She seemed to have realized her courture folly and was nowhere to be found.

2. The art world just wasn't ready for me. I should have said I was a walking installation titled "Afterbirth."

Good root beer, though.