People of all ages celebrate Holi (Festival of Colors) at the Hindu Temple & Cultural Center of Kansas City on Saturday, March 30.  RNS photo by Sally Morrow

People of all ages celebrate Holi (Festival of Colors) at the Hindu Temple & Cultural Center of Kansas City on March 30, 2013. RNS photo by Sally Morrow


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(RNS) India burst with color Monday (March 17), as Hindus observed the playful festival of Holi by dashing each other with brightly colored powder.

Americans partake of the spring festival, too. But at the largest Holi festival in the United States, the majority of participants won’t be Hindus — they’ll be Mormons.

“In Utah, if you go anywhere and mention the Festival of Colors to anybody, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about and their face will light up,” said Caru Das, priest at Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah, and the main organizer of the town’s Holi celebration, known as the Festival of Colors, which will be celebrated this year on March 29 and 30.

Spanish Fork, about 10 miles south of Provo and Brigham Young University, has been home to a congregation of Hare Krishna devotees since 1982. They started hosting Holi celebrations in 1989. When festival organizers introduced rock bands into the mix, the thousands of young students up the road began to take notice. Das said the first few festivals had about 300 attendees; a few years later it was 3,000, then 10,000. In recent years, the numbers have been close to 70,000, spread out over two days.

“It’s one of the biggest events” in the area, said Garrett Gray, a Mormon and a sophomore business management major at BYU. “I’d say a huge majority of students go.”

Festival organizers have found a niche serving young people who want to have fun, but without the alcohol or drug use associated with other kinds of rock concerts or large festivals, Das said.

“It kind of worked out ideally,” Das said. “They can actually express themselves spiritually without the taint of unwanted activities going on in the same venue.”

While Mormon students make up a large portion of the crowd at the Spanish Fork Festival of Colors, they are not the only demographic represented. Sonal Yadav moved to Utah to pursue a master’s in business administration at BYU. A Hindu, raised in New Delhi, she said Holi has always been her favorite holiday.

Yadav said she was thrilled to discover Spanish Fork had a Holi festival. “I went both days,” she said. “I had a blast. I really enjoyed myself!”

In India, most Hindus celebrate Holi with spontaneous games between friends or neighbors, so Yadav said Spanish Fork’s festival, which has a $3 admission fee, a concert stage and a formal countdown to kick off the color throwing, is not exactly like home. But the friendly and fun atmosphere, she said, is the same.

Yadav’s only criticism of the event, which celebrates renewal and love of the divine, is that some of the religious elements of the holiday seem to get lost in translation.

For example, she said the young Mormons at the festival happily chanted “Hare Rama, Hare Krishna,” the god the festival celebrates. But she added: “I would be surprised if those youngsters really knew what the festival was all about.”

Gray agreed that he and most of his friends were in the dark about the meaning behind the colors.

“To be honest, I really don’t know what it symbolizes for their religion, and I think the majority of people there feel that same way,” Gray said.

But Das said the intention of the festival is to create a welcoming space for people of all faiths. Das is continuing to grow his festivals to “let everyone experience this wonderful event.” The Festival of Colors, in its 25th year, now has events in seven cities across the Western U.S., including Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But Spanish Fork’s festival, with its surprising blend of Mormon and Hindu attendees, remains the largest.

“I imagine there’s probably a few people who would argue that it’s not consistent with our beliefs,” Gray said, “but for the most part, I love to embrace and appreciate all cultures and religions.”

Yadav said her Mormon peers have been very welcoming to her as a Hindu and she credits their cultural sensitivity with their missions work abroad.

She said she chose BYU because she wanted a school with strong family values, said that even after two years on the mostly Mormon campus, she feels her Hindu faith has only grown stronger. Having engaged in religious discussions with her classmates and attended a few Mormon services with her friends, she said she sees strong parallels between the religions.

“When you put colors on your face you cannot make out one from another who the person is,” she said. “Really, it’s the colors of brotherhood, love and friendship.”

YS/MG END DAVIS

19 Comments

  1. “I imagine there’s probably a few people who would argue that it’s not consistent with our beliefs,” Gray said, “but for the most part, I love to embrace and appreciate all cultures and religions.”

    Multi-faith seems acceptable to those who don’t understand that there is only one name given under heaven by which a person may be saved.

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

    • Agreed, downtown dave.

      When transcendent truth is determined via a “burning in the bosom,” it can probably be attributed to last night’s bad pizza.

      Reveling in the rituals of another religion– young Mormons happily chant the name of a Hindu god and douse themselves in celebratory color– just because its fun.

      Relying on “feelings” in order to determine truth is ultimately going to result in undertaking actions that feel good and are therefore justified in the eyes of the participants.

      The Mormon parents and religious leaders of these kids taught them this method of deciphering truth. They must be very proud.

      • @downtown dave
        @rockscryout

        You can love your neighbours, embrace their cultures and celebrate with them while still being strong in your own beliefs. What are they supposed to do, close their blinds and shun the participants because they don’t believe in the same god?

        I agree with Larry.

    • @DOWNTOWN DAVE,

      You said, “there is only one name given under heaven
      by which a person may be saved”

      EXACTLY!

      
“bring those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King, and EXECUTE THEM in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

      That will teach them who’s boss!

        • @sven,

          True.
          But isn’t it so FUNNY that ‘context’ is never required for the nice verses?

          “God is love”
          “Blessed are the peacemakers” – Jesus
          “Love your enemies” – Jesus
          “God so loved the world”
          “Love your neighbor”

          :-) No one ever questions those :-)
          Only when God calls for killing do people scream for context!

          “God hates with vengeance and jealousy”
          “I do NOT come in Peace” – Jesus
          “Kill MY enemies” – Jesus
          “God regrets creating Humans”
          “Judge your neighbors harshly”
          “Dash their babies against the rocks”
          “God shall slay the unborn”
          “Do not hesitate to kill your neighbor”
          “The Lord shall punish them by ordering the raping of their wives”
          “Execute Them” – Jesus

          It is like swimming with goldfish and sharks…in the same tank!

    • Multi-faith is even more acceptable to those who find the idea of living peaceably with those of other faiths is preferable to hostility and uncivil behavior.

      I generally find it in poor taste to decry things such as hospitality, openness and friendship. It makes your beliefs look petty and unworthy of respect.

    • David Lloyd-Jones

      “Downtown Dave,” a person who spares us his identity, writes, “Multi-faith seems acceptable to those who don’t understand that there is only one name given under heaven by which a person may be saved.”

      I don’t think Jesus of Nazareth died for anybody’s sins. I think He lived to show people there is no validity to this ugly little message, that sin governs you until you follow orders from people like the anonymous “downtown dave.”

      -dlj.

  2. I am a Mormon and attended my neighbor’s Holi Celebration on Saturday here in Arizona. I am secure enough in my convictions and am not intimidated by their beliefs or customs. It was a great opportunity to get to know them better and to “love my neighbor.” They are wonderful people and I am grateful they live on my street. Besides, if Christians are to bring people to Christ, we can’t do it by not having any thing to do with them.

    • So was your open manner towards them just a pretext to trying to prosletyze them or were you genuinely enjoying your neighbor’s hospitality?

      Most Hindu sects don’t go out of their way to try to convert people. Bringing in people of other faiths to their celebrations is more a matter of showing hospitality and sharing a good time than trying to impress people into the religion.

      Would you continue to be friendly with those neighbors if they showed no interest at all in following your faith?

  3. I went a few years ago. It was a great experience! Even though it was mostly other LDS people there, it is good to know that some diversity exists in Utah. Thank you for your great mentality and inviting all to come! It sets a great example for all…Including a lot of my fellow Mormons.

  4. David Lloyd-Jones

    Our local Hindus celebrate a festival of what we in English call the Juggernaut here in Toronto every year.

    It’s nice and colourful, but you can tell it’s a watered down liberalish kind of imitation: nobody can kill themselves by throwing themselves under its wheels the way they do at the Real Thing back in India.

    Christians who don’t handle snakes? Mormons who don’t make war on the United States of America?

    What’s it all coming to? Fundamental values being traduced everywhere…

    -dlj.

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