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Hindu Community Unites as Colors Splatter

May 05, 2016 03:00PM ● Published by Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals

South Jordan - Hundreds of rainbow-colored people danced, talked and laughed around the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah and Indian Culture Center during the annual Holi Vasanthotsavam Color Festival on April 2. In these Holi festivals, celebrated in India and across the world by those of the Hindu religion, participants fling colored chalk at each other as a way to welcome the spring.

Not as well known or widely attended as the Holi Festival of Colors at the Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, which brings more than 50,000 participants and is the largest color festival outside of India, the South Jordan festival has a more “casual appeal, like something you would see on the streets of India,” because the participants know each other and are friends, Neeraj Agarwal, temple joint vice president, said. 

“Holi for us is like big Thanksgiving but for Indian people,” Agarwal said. “We say thanks for the good things and sorry for the bad things that happened to our friends throughout the year. You forget about your animosities and you start fresh.”

On a normal day, people would be really upset if one of their friends threw colored dye or chalk all over them, but at Holi festivals, it’s expected and welcomed, Rohit Diwari, participant, said. 

“It’s like taking off that ego and anger and coloring the world,” Diwari said. “Some people, my friends, I can’t even recognize them because they are so covered in color. We are all the same.”

The Holi is a sign of unity and equality, showing that it doesn’t matter what race or religion you are, Deepika Behl, participant, said. 

“It is good and fun and to let people know that we are just one. We are united,” she said.  “If you dance you can dance with anybody. It is like you are friends with whoever is near to you.”

The festival has ancient roots, linking to the ancient Hindu myth of Holika, who the festival — Holi — is named after. Holika, a demon with a special fire-protectant garment, tried to kill her nephew Prahlad by sitting in the fire with him. As the story goes, the protective garment flew off of Holika and onto Prahlad, saving Prahlad and killing his aunt. As a tribute to this story, priests lit bonfires during the Sri Ganesha Temple’s Holi. 

“It’s a sign of all of the evil things — you light them on fire, and then the good things come in, and the spring starts,” Diwari said. 

Agarwal said Holi started out as a religious festival but that it has become more of a cultural festival in recent years. He’s less concerned about where the traditions came from, but more concerned about everyone’s enjoyment of the festivities. 

“There are many stories of how Holi started, but it doesn’t really matter how it started,” Agarwal said. “We like it. We like the fact that it started. It is more about fun and colors and dancing and music than religion anymore.” 

Keya Kaadige, 6, attended the festival with her father, Mohan, and said she loved everything about the festival at the Sri Ganesha temple located at 1142 West South Jordan Parkway.

“I got my jacket all dirty because I could,” Keya said. “I liked getting purple on me.”

Mohan said he loved the festival because it gave him a little slice of home. Mohan, an Indian native, now resides in the east Millcreek area. 

After a few hours of celebration, Keya and Mohan headed out of the festival late in the afternoon, bracing the springtime April air with full grins and color-speckled clothes.  

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