March 20, 2011
Today is the second of two days of the Holy Day Festival of Color, when everyone runs around spreading powered paint on everyone else. It did not take long to learn that the official greeting of the day is Happy Holy. Yesterday was the festival day for the mountain areas, and today is the Color Day for the Thura villages.
This is a time when age has its benefit. The youth know to respect their elders’ desire to not be covered in “color,” but it also a time to join in on the cultural fun. Yesterday I found myself surrounded by several enthusiastic pre-teenagers desperate to rub yellow paint power on my face. What else could I do but oblige them?
I am sure the fact that it is full moon is no coincidence; most ancient festivals are dictated by the moon, the stars and the seasons. Last night on my walk back to my guesthouse from town I heard before I saw a huge raging bond fire. The scene was mesmerizing, with the crackling blaze backlighting some 50 painted dancers. Some had drums, others dancing sticks, and all seemed to have handfuls of powered paint. Even from my distance I felt pulled into the ritual that spoke to my soul.
Today the roving bands of paint-wielding youth have multiplied. Their eagerness to cover the entire town with paint seems to have increased, but they still remain respectful of those of us who duck around the corner of a shed or attempt to hide behind a tree when they approach. With a friendly “Namaste,” everyone breaks into laughter as the kids run off in search of a more cooperative canvas.
A stage is set up downtown with music blaring and people have been dancing since 10am. Bands of motorcycle riding teenagers, covered in multiple colors of paint, roar through town, yelling to one another as the youngest children giggle as others hold them down and cover their clothes with color! From the paint-free zone of my porch I hear joyful singing from every direction. Young and old alike are engaged in playful banter; from every direction you can hear and see everyone enjoying this Holy Day of Color.