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Body Painting For God

Last week Hindus celebrated the religion’s splashiest, wildest, most sensuous holiday. Holi is the ecstatic festival to honor the start of spring, the fertility of the land, and the triumph of good over evil. I know of no other religious holiday in any faith that can compare.

Holi is the time of year when celebrants cover each other in colors, flinging and smearing brilliant powdered colors, dumping buckets of bright-tinted water. The brashest of Easter eggs pale before the saturated shades of Holi.

This festival erupts the day after the early March full moon. Subhamoy Das offers a vivid description on

During Holi, practices, which at other times could be offensive, are allowed. Squirting colored water on passers-by, dunking friends in mud pool amidst teasing and laughter, getting intoxicated on bhaang and reveling with companions is perfectly acceptable. In fact, on the days of Holi, you can get away with almost anything by saying, “Don’t mind, it’s Holi!” (Hindi = Bura na mano, Holi hai.)

The Festive License!
Women, especially, enjoy the freedom of relaxed rules and sometimes join in the merriment rather aggressively. There is also much vulgar behavior connected with phallic themes. It is a time when pollution is not important, a time for license and obscenity in place of the usual societal and caste restrictions. In a way, Holi is a means for the people to ventilate their ‘latent heat’ and experience strange physical relaxations.

Holi Fever

So far I haven’t had the pleasure of taking part in Holi myself, and I’m not so sure that I’d really like it. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I recall once in college in the late 60s turning up for an exam I’d studied for most of the night and the professor offered paint and chalk and all kinds of crafty items and told us to express ourselves. It was a journalism class; I had on a white wool dress and a date immediately after the “test”: I spent the time expressing my views of this exam in a letter to the professor. But as a religious celebration of spring and goodness, a reveling in spring colors, I at least love the idea.

bright Indian colors , Holi festival, Jaipur, Rajasthan , India

Body Painting, Color Splashing: Exuberant Ecstatic Physical Worship

My closest friend in my winter in Varanasi, India, my neighbor Usa, confided, “Holi is my holiday.” I had trouble picturing this, as she seemed so quiet and dignified; I imagine that there are degrees of Holi celebration.

The name comes from Holika, a demon or monster or devil. Among the origin stories of the holiday are that of Lord Krishna defeating Holika, and of the love between Krishna and Radha, of Krishna’s characteristic playfulness.

Each color has symbolic meanings: red, purity; green, vitality. One could say that the celebration is color therapy on a massive scale.

If you have 4 minutes and 51 seconds, please watch the video presentation above. And have a look at these photos. I think they all convey the spirit, the celebration and joy that are a proper expression of spirituality.

Beautiful grunge circle colorful Indian festival Happy Holi back

Radha Krishna playing Holi


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  • March 11, 2015 at 6:41 pm Reply

    What if this attitude was the norm – and our everyday seriousness became the every-now-and-then let’s have fun aberration? Or better yet, what if we just had more balance in our lives?

    • Peggy Payne
      March 11, 2015 at 7:13 pm Reply

      I think it can be pretty hard to change gears, Jim. That may be one thing getting in the way of a better balance. Also, the habit of inhibition. And what else? The to-do list? You have thoughts?

  • March 11, 2015 at 8:10 pm Reply

    I am reminded of some local 5K races, after which the participants are dowsed with colored powder and water. I do not know if the local ones have the same license to show their inner desires.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 11, 2015 at 8:22 pm Reply

      I can see how running could loosen a body up to take part, kenju. But I sure didn’t know it was a local race tradition.

      I ran in one race ever (a 10K) which I finished and so received the T-shirt. I was so proud of it that I wore it to a birthday party that night; turned out the party wasn’t as casual as I’d thought. Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court was there in a long dress. I might as well have been doused in colors.

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