Asha Holi is one of my favorite events on the Accents are Sexy calendar. Holi is an Indian spring celebration festival. In short, it’s a time where you throw color at complete strangers – and ruin some clothing. These days, participants are mistaken for color run participants as they walk home covered in more colors than the rainbow. I bet that’s where they got the idea.
Beyond the color fights, music and food, there is a deeper meaning.
The color part has been a modern addition to the festivities, dating from the last century or so. Before that, people used to sling some mud at each other.
In India’s still-prevalent caste system, this is one day when everyone – covered in mud – are all equal. This equalizer brings down the barriers and lets everyone celebrate together as members of the community.
The Holi we attend is in Stanford and is organized by Asha for Education, a non-profit that supports education among impoverished children in India. It is the largest Holi celebration in the Bay Area if not the United States. Thousands of people converge at Stanford’s sandhill fields for two days of fun.
Once you exchange your ticket for a bracelet, you’ll get your first hit of colors right as you enter the gates. The color is in powder form, organic, edible and non-toxic, and it’s also easy to wash it off. There is some good rhythmic music playing – India has a rich, diverse culture of music and dance, with one thing in common: a good sense of rhythm.
There are several color stations where you “reload” on the colored powder. Veterans come with ziplock bags to be able to hold more ammunition. Then the fun begins, no body part is off-limit. When you notice someone trying to cover their hair or other parts of their body, he or she immediately becomes a magnet for attack.
Some people put their color-ful (pun intended) hands on your face or your back leaving their print, others use a more ballistic approach. Either way, there is no escape. There are a number dance performances by youth dance groups with costumes and music representing different regions of India.
All this battling creates quite an appetite. The are food stands with a number of Indian favorites and of course Mango lassi.
This year, due to the drought, water was only provided for emergency situations – like eye cleansing. In previous years, people would bring their fancy water guns or purchase some on site. This arms race added another level of danger from above – or the side.
When looking at the crowd, there would be regular bursts of water guns firing up in the air in the distance, like anti-aircraft fire on the evening news. This year, there were puffs of color instead.
As it is tradition, we walked to the Stanford shopping mall for a very satisfying frozen yogurt at pink berry.