Festival of Colors more than meets the eye

CHR04022014A042 Colby Patterson
Grey Leman

Grey Leman

It may come as a surprise to many that one of the largest Hindu celebrations in the United States — the Holi “festival of colors” — occurs in religiously uniform Utah. It is a great opportunity for different cultures to join as a community, if all members choose to acknowledge it.

Every year, tens of thousands of Utahns drive down to the Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork to participate in the festival of Holi to — whether they know it or not — celebrate the end of winter, the triumph of good over evil and the love between the Hindu deity Krishna and his wife, Radha.

Spanish Fork is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Provo, meaning many of the attendees are BYU students. As Garrett Gray, a sophomore at BYU, admitted to Katherine Davis of the Religious News Service, many of them are drawn by the fun but remain unaware of the significance of the event.

“I really don’t know what [the festival] symbolizes for [the Hindu] religion,” he said.

Young Christians can be seen jumping up and down, chanting “hare Rama, hare Krishna” with the live band. They either aren’t concerned or don’t know that these simple phrases are a deeply significant prayer in Hinduism. As those who work at the temple will explain, each time a person says Krishna aloud, more good karma will come his or her way.

Those who maintain and regularly visit the temple don’t appear to mind the grand number of funseeking individuals who attend the festival. Beyond the spiritual meaning, the festival intends to bring the community together, to rejoice spring, to allow society to gather as equals overlooking class distinction and, of course, to lift people’s spirits. The Spanish Fork festival accomplishes all this and brings in a considerable amount of funding and recognition to the temple.

However, the growth of the event could be overshadowing its roots. While it is good that Holi allows multiple religions to celebrate together, and it is a good way to introduce Hinduism to Western society, it would be nice if attendees took some extra time to try to understand such a different religion, perhaps by touring the temple another time in the year or researching the meaning of the event.

Eastern polytheistic culture has a different way of thinking than the West, but neither can be truly appreciated if the other does not try to understand its counterpart. A Christian family might embrace non-Christians who join them in prayer or celebrate religious holidays alongside them, even if they have no intention of converting. However, many would prefer those outside their religion to not say “amen” or perform other religious customs without first trying to understand where they came from. At the very least, non-Hindus should try to hold true to the golden rule, treating others the way they wish to be treated and show more respect at the next Holi festival.