Why I won’t go back to the Festival of Colors

Published by Erica on

The Hindu temple in Spanish Fork is a bit of a surprise. This exotic building rises out of farmland, set on a hill amongst fields. It’s certainly not what you expect to see in that area. If you decide to visit, you’ll soon find that it is a beautiful temple used for worship by the Hare Krishna Hindus in Utah. It has a sanctuary area on the top floor, with a cafeteria and shopping area. (They sell beautiful traditional clothes and jewelery.) The man and his wife that oversee the temple and shops are wonderful people – very friendly, welcoming, and happy to share their beliefs and culture with others. I’ve attended some worship services there and while it’s quite different than my typical religious experience, it is very loving and harmonious. 

One of the religious festivals which the Hare Krishna’s observe is Holi, or the Festival of Colors. It happens in late March. As with all their festivals, this one features music, drama, and dance performances to entertain the patrons. The music usually is mantra, rather repetitious and not necessarily the most thrilling. The dramas depict stories from the Ramayana or Baghavadgita or other sacred texts. While strongly moralistic, they’re very interesting. Of course, my favorite part is the dancing! They generally bring in excellent Indian dancers to perform and its simply wonderful to see them perform. But back to the festival….

So after the entertainment, the mantra-chanting picks up again and an effigy is set on fire. If I remember right, it’s the effigy of an evil woman. Then comes the next part of the festival, as it goes in Spanish Fork: the throwing of the colors. Using brightly colored chalk, everyone throws handfuls of color at each other in a frenzied mayhem. The general idea is that at the end, everyone is so covered that there’s a sense of equality and harmony. It’s supposed to be a very transcendent experience. At the very least, it sure does create a sense of camaraderie!

This was from the first year I attended the festival. It was so fun! These are all folk dance friends, which probably accounts for how we knew about the festival. At that point in time, not many people knew about the festival and it was only attended by a group of a few hundred. As dancers, we cared about the culture and story of the festival as much as we enjoyed shmearing each other with chalk!

And then Facebook happened. And people started coming because it sounded cool (which it is). But they didn’t care that it was a religious festival. That there were people there celebrating part of their culture and religion, not just trying to manufacture a spring break of sorts for their dreary winter. I went to the festival three years in a row, and by the third year, I had decided that I didn’t care to go back (after the 2009 festival). Mostly because it bothered me how other people treated the culture and celebration. It was all ignorance and selfishness. The temple makes a lot of money now from the festival, which is awesome! But I’ll stick to the other festivals and celebrations they have. 
Festival of Colors was super fun! But at some point, I believe that authenticity and respect should come into play. I feel like BYU students have appropriated this festival to be their own little spring break, where their behaviour can be wild and crazy and there are no consequences. Their callousness is a disrespect to the religious observance, as well as the Hare Krishnas who come to celebrate in true belief. Maybe that makes me a snob, but oh well if it does. 

And that’s why I don’t go to the Festival of Colors anymore. 

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Colin · March 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm

will you please send this to the daily universe or let me do it for you?

Erica · March 29, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I'd feel funny tooting my own horn, but you can do what you like with the link. 🙂

Chandler · March 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I had the exact same impression, except this year was my first time going. I wish I could have gone a few years ago.

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