Happy Holi!

        

      Colors are the smiles of nature. 

– Leigh Hunt

                And nature surely smiles the broadest during spring! 🙂 Of all the festivals in India, Holi is perhaps the one that elicits the most mixed emotions. There are people who just looooove it and miss it a lot when away from the Indian soils. Then there are those who would rather hide themselves in a closet away from the rest of the world on this particular day. I consider myself somewhere in between, but definitely leaning towards the former.

                When I was a kid (this is sometime in the 80s), the day would start early with preparation of colors i.e. mixing up of colors with water in buckets and filling up of pichkaris (spray guns) and water-baloons. We would roam around in the neighbourhood collecting friends for ‘playing Holi with’ as well as tasting various sweet and savoury items prepared meticulously beforehand by the aunties in the colony. Between the drill of preparing colors in different proportions to get the desired combination(s),  the thrill of drenching your close friend in bucketful of color and the sheer joy of tasting delicacies like gujiya, gulab jamun, malpua, dahi bade, nimki, thandai – what is your favourite Holi moment? Difficult to say, right? So come spring time…and my husband and I would get nostalgic recollecting to each other the different times we played Holi back in India.

                So naturally, as soon as we came to know of the Holi mela in Iskcon DC this year, we decided to go there. The temperatures luckily were in 50s that day. And weren’t we glad that we attended it!? The atmosphere was magical!

                We started with a visit to the temple. The deities were clothed specially for the occasion in pristine white, but the garlands were multi-colored; and in the background were the many colors of life; even the offerings were of different colors. The overall effects were dramatic! (Click on the pics to see an enlarged view).

Radha Krishna at Iskcon DC

Radha Krishna at Iskcon DC

                Next we ventured into the actual festival area. Being in the US where privacy and freedom are valued a lot, I was pleasantly surprised to experience what I term a perfect Indo-American style of Holi. Total strangers approached us gleefully and put gulaal on us…after asking our permission, of course 🙂 Initially I was a bit apprehensive. After all, any woman who has grown up in India, knows to be wary of and cautious about drunken revelry especially on occasions such as Holi. But after some time, I too let my hair down and started soaking in the atmosphere fully. There was pinata for kids; several stalls for the grown-ups. There were huge queues for the food – one could buy vegetarian thalis, snacks, baked items at reasonable prices.   

           pinata

                Especially interesting were the reactions of the kids, some of whom were being introduced for the first time to this grand festival. I  spotted a few that were bawling; my own son was kind of overwhelmed at first. Which 5-year old wouldn’t at the scenes of seemingly crazy people dressed their worst and smeared in all kinds of funky colors from head to toe? (There were some young men even with torn clothes amongst the crowd.) However, soon he got the hang of things and started approaching other kids with a fist full of color and a silly grin on his face. 🙂 There were dances to the music of Radha-Krishna bhajans.

dance

                What was my favourite 2013 Holi moment? Undoubtedly, the one where there was a countdown from 10-9-8-…and at 0, the airs got strewn in a myriad of hues – from pink to purple to green to red and orange. It was beautiful!

dance

                There was Holika-dahan at the end.

Holika

                Finally, we headed back home humming to the highly addictive tunes of Shri Radhe Radhe and with promises of returning next year with loads of friends and colors.

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Indian Festival season in USA

                The Forms and Facilities may differ, but the Spirit remains the same. 

                This is what I came to conclude after attending the Dashahara mela at Washington DC center of Iskcon temple earlier this month. And this is also what this blog is about…the spirit of India in us and of Indians in the US 🙂 Before I left for the mela, I had promised one of my dear friends that I’ll share with her some pictures from the fair. Puja season is a time when all Indians in faraway lands get nostalgic about the memories with which they grew up. Sure the ways of celebrating Durga Puja, Dashahara, Lakshmi Puja, Diwali differ in different parts of India, but the spirit remains the same. The victory of good over evil, of light over darkness, of the eternal over the transient!

                These are some of the Durga Puja pics at Washington DC Kali temple (Click on the pics to see an enlarged view). You can enjoy the Dhak here.

Durga Pratima at Kalibari

               
Devis at Kalibari

                We also regularly attend the Ramakrishna Mission Durga puja. This is held in Briggs Cheney middle school every year. This is how Pujas are usually held abroad in schools by those different Hindu associations that do not own a big temple. The Bhog offered here to the deities and later served to the devotees is to die for! And I suspect this is because of the utmost love and devotion with which each lady prepares her portion of the Bhog. It is like a big potluck party, where everyone comes prepared with a different dish! Everything from the decorations to Bhog-preparation to serving and cleaning up to the various cultural programmes are done by the devotees themselves.

Vedanta Center DC Durga Puja

               
                Next are some pics of the Dashahara mela at Iskcon DC. We have been attending this one too for quite some years now. It has always been lots of fun with ample activities for the old and the young alike! There were lots of stalls put up – food, clothes, prayer-items, games and so on. There was a bow and arrow game, that drew lots of kids. Another activity involved making one’s own demon using the material provided – straw, paper, marker, threads – and putting it beside the Ravan to be burnt later that night. The metaphor was well driven home with the message that one has to burn the bad qualities that exist within ourselves – anger, greed, jealousy, pride etc.

Make Your Own Demon for Burning alongside Ravan
              There was a game in which one had to throw off the demonhead using rings of smoke. That was the one which caught the maximum attention.

Demon Head
Make the Demon Head disappear
             
Ravan
               
Ravan
               
Hanuman

Ram-Sita
                And finally, I have some videos to share… The first one is a bit poignant that includes Lakshman Rekha (Lakshman’s boundary), Jatayu-Vadh (slaying of Jatayu) and Sita-haran (capturing of Sita). Don’t miss the Vanar Sena Yuddha, it’s hilarious! Lastly, a snippet of the Ravan Dahan here.