Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Holi Eve

Sleepy Santiniketan has turned into a mini-Calcutta in the span of a day.  Tomorrow is Holi, or Dol as they call it in West Bengal, the Festival of Color marking the arrival of Spring.  Thousands of people have been streaming into town since this morning, cars are jamming up the roads, tensions are rising.

I feel a little bit like a kid on Christmas Eve who doesn't know what Christmas actually is.  I know there are lights on buildings (like Christmas), stalls with food and arts and crafts have sprung up over night, and people are selling bags of brightly colored paint powder.

It's the paint that has really got me both nervous and excited.  That paint is going to be tossed willy nilly onto anyone and everyone.  Santiniketan favors "dry Holi".  In the farther north parts of the country, they do Holi wet, often with manure mixed into the balls of paint for extra adventure.

I have a red and saffron sari for the occasion and red flowers waiting in the fridge to deck my hair with in the early hours of the day.  We have to leave the house at 6 in order to get to the viewing stands.  Seems there is dancing with some kind of sticks starting at the break of dawn.  After that, all hell breaks loose and the powder starts to fly.  Chandana has arranged for Minou, Jahor and Rocky to be my guardians lest any big city Holi Hooligans decide to get fresh.

On top of all the Holi craziness, the moon will be full.  Not just full, but closer to the Earth than it has been in a loooongggg time and closer than it will be for a long time after.   So, La Luna will be tugging extra hard on all our inner compasses, stretching out the edges of our comfort zones and blurring the lines of right and wrong, black and white, up and down.

Holi seems to have a lot of mythology around it.  My favorite story that I've heard is that Holi was the one day of the year that girls from lower castes were allowed to hastle men from the upper castes, essentially it was pay-back time.

Walking through the streets tonight I could feel the anticipation of fun and frolicking that awaits us all tomorrow.  As the people are streaming in, the walls are coming down.

What must it be like to let loose in a country where letting loose is not really done?  Especially on the full moon when craziness is apt to happen regardless of flying paint and dancing and thousands of unskilled frolickers leaping into their own forbidden zones?

That is what I'm about to find out.

That and what I'd look like if I dyed my hair pink, or blue, or yellow, or purple, or bright red.

Or, all of the above.


auntiemao said...


Jane said...

What??!! I'm so excited to find out what happens next! LOVE, jm

rotca said...

In Thailand, April 13-15, there is the festival of "Songkran" really a New Year's celebration involving throwing colored wate, cups or more of colored water whoosh from bus windows onto roadside amblers and cyclers are doused as they run the gauntlet of a village that occupies 1/10th of a mile of narrow roadway. If you don't get wet, you're not having fun yet.

Christopher said...

Sounds like a variation on the medieval "Twelfth Night" or "Feast of Fools" celebration, when servants could order their masters and basically everything went a bit topsy-turvy for a few days. And of course this was based on the even older Roman "Saturnalia".

Funny how, when you start to look closely, so many customs and traditions are shared by different cultures!