I finally found a Hindu temple in Toronto where they play Holi. It was at the Holi Mela at the Vishnu Mandir Temple in Richmond Hill this past weekend. While other Hindu temples celebrate this important festival too, this was the first one I’ve found where people throw coloured powder at each other outdoors, and smear paint on faces indoors. It’s usually forbidden in temple here because this Festival of Colours makes a holy mess that’s difficult to clean up.
The festival celebrates the appearance in India of an incarnation of Lord Krishna in 1486. It is also a spring festival, the end of winter and the victory of good over evil. Don’t you wish!!!
In India, it is customary to throw powdered colours at everyone, even strangers, on the street. It is one of India’s most important festivals. I was in New Delhi during this event one year, and it was a lot of fun – if one wears clothes that can be easily washed. It was a fun way to relate to strangers and most people didn’t seem to mind.
In the Toronto temple, the mela was a family affair. I first got an inkling of it as I waited for the entertainment to begin as students of the temple’s school started appearing with their faces and hair powdered with colours.
They started decorating their parents. Then adults started smearing each other’s faces with paint. Some sprinkled hair with what looked like talcum. They accompanied this with big hugs, “Happy Holi” and lots of laughs. Over the loud-speaker, I could hear someone say, “Play Holi responsibly. Don’t do it to strangers.” The fair was selling jewellery, clothes and food and the powder could easily get on the merchandise too.
I was glad they didn’t get powder on the white dresses of the dancers.
I had been feeling invisible as usual in this temple. People were friendly as always but only when I approached them with questions. Then I asked a woman with red on her face if I could take her picture. She asked if she could paint me. After she did, she gave me a big hug too. I suddenly felt welcomed as other people smiled at me too after that. What a nice ice-breaker!
I’ve also read about a group that gets together to throw colours at each other at Woodbine Park each year. Its more for fun than religious. This year it will be Sunday, April 6. See: https://www.facebook.com/events/489176211115099/ and also:
Let us know what happens if you go and if you find any other temples here that play Holi. Write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org .