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Holi Festival of Colors is more than a chalk-throwing party

April 5th, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Katie Swain

SPANISH FORK—Thousands of color enthusiasts gathered last weekend to participate in the Holi, Festival of Colors, at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple. Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the Earth’s vibrant transformation from winter to spring. Participants celebrated by throwing colored chalk into the air and on each other.

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More than 57,000 people came to the Holi Festival of Colors to celebrate spring and something deeper than flinging colored chalk KATIE SWAIN photo

The Festival of Colors Facebook page says 57,000 people flocked to the temple grounds over the two-day annual celebration. Most are not Hindu, but all were welcomed by the Utah Krishnas all the same. People of all beliefs attended for reasons separate from religious observance.

“I went because I really enjoy the community at festivals like that,” said Mereht Gibbons, a self-described non-religious participator. “I think that in a lot of ways, living without religion makes it hard to feel connected to other people, which is why I love events like the color festival that include everyone and that are so positive.”

Savanah Olsen also enjoys the Festival of Colors’ fun atmosphere.

“This is my second time,” Olsen said. “I had a blast the first time which is why I went again. It’s a neat experience and a fun thing to do with friends.”

For other participants, like Hilary Webb, Holi has a deeper cultural significance. Webb has attended the last three Festival of Colors celebrations and plans to keep going.

DSC09997“I’m not Hindu,” Webb said, “but I think we can learn things from all cultures and religions. Getting covered in chalk and taking pictures is great; that’s one of the reasons I go, but I think people would get more out of it if they understood what the festival meant. It’s about the triumph of good over evil. You can learn things from people who see the world differently than you do.

“I think we’re lucky to have such a huge religious festival in such a small, homogeneous community,” she said.

Though throwing colored chalk into the air is the most popular attraction, it is not Holi’s only element. The celebration also consists of a bonfire, the burning of a witch effigy, dancing, singing and prayer chanting. The festival also featured constant live music. This year’s line-up included DJ Drez, MC Yogi and the festival’s original band, Ananda Groove.

Lauren Hillman said she has gone to Holi for three years with her friends to enjoy the music and colors.

“The music’s always weird and funky,” Hillman said. “It’s really fun to listen to it.”

Every two hours through the weekend celebration, the sky filled with an explosion of color as the stage performers led the countdown to the scheduled chalk throwings. The chalk painted everything in the vibrant shades of spring as the people shouted out Krishna chants and messages of love and renewal.

“It is such a beautiful celebration,” Gibbons said. “I will definitely be going again!”

Images of Holi, by Katie Swain

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Mereht Gibbons


Zach Wallin and Savanah Olsen

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The ever-colorful Katie Swain herself.


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