Note: It's going to become really apparent really quickly in this post that I favour British-English spellings. I suggest you learn to deal with it.
Ah, small Western towns: The rodeo ground, the feed store, the Hare Krishna temple...
As it happens, Spanish Fork, Utah boasts its very own Krishna temple, and on Saturday that temple boasted their very own Festival of Colors, aka Holi.
As far as I have understood, the Hindu festival of Holi commemorates the day when a five year old boy, Prahlad, escaped death by fire.He was sentenced to death by burning for refusing to worship the king, and his sister Holika, who was a witch and a demon volunteered to carry him into the fire. Nice! Holika had a special talent that allowed her to not be harmed by fire. So happy Holika carries poor Prahlad into the flames, expecting him to burn and die. But Prahlad is a faithful sort of kid, and prays to Lord Vishnu, who hears his prayers. Not only does Prahlad make it out of the flames alive, but Holika loses her nonflammable skills and burns to death. That's what you get. So now Holika is burned in effigy every spring, and coloured powder and water are thrown around too.
Being English, I could naturally get behind a good effigy burning, and we'd heard tell of 15,000 people flinging colour around, so off we went with a few friends to the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple to see it all for ourselves.
Now. It started off fairly low-key with some llamas and peacocks and long lines for vegetarian curries. The temple looked suitably exotic and filled with Eastern Promise, and there were a few people milling about in saris (among the rampant hordes of BYU students). A couple of thousand people (us included) were seated on the hillside to watch Indian dancers and politely ignore any religious content that might not mesh with our own beliefs. Mostly it felt really good to relax outside on a rare sunny day in March.
None of us had ever been to Holi before, so didn't really know what to expect. We bought our bags of colour which turned out to be vibrantly dyed corn starch, scented with jasmine and.... something else that I can't remember. I found it charming that the bags were imported from India, and labeled "Spanish Fork, UT, USA". They also had a large "No. 1" emblazoned across the front, which I am going to take to mean that we got the good stuff. No inferior dyed cornstarch for us!
As the time drew closer to 5:30, we were getting pretty excited. As were our 15,000 new friends on the hillside beside us. In fact some of them were getting so excited that they took it upon themselves to light the effigy of Holika early. Side note: I'm not a huge stickler for rules (Ok, actually, I kind of am) but I think that when someone invites you to join in their religious celebration, you do not take it upon yourself to jump the gun on the entire culminating moment. Unless of course you're some punk kid from Utah. Did someone say the Age of Entitlement? Sheesh. So that part was pretty lame, and I was annoyed.
And then this happened:
A-mazing! The temple completely disappeared from view for a while, there was so much dusty colour in the air. It looked like fire, it looked like smoke* and it looked like clouds. Here's a shot from inside the crowd that actually captures what it felt like to be there pretty well:
And this is what we looked by the time we had emptied all of our bags onto each other.
I think (I hope!) that the main reason I look slightly crazed in these is because my face is a lovely shade of purple. Violet Beauregard would be proud.
In summary: That was really fun! The colour gets everywhere (I'm talking pink and purple tissues for the next two days), and the crowds are above and beyond what a little place like that can handle, but I would not be surprised if we went again.
*Oh! I get the symbolism now! The clouds of colour look like fire and smoke, and so the people inside them appear to be unharmed by the flames, like Prahlad! Thank you, Humanities major!