A lot of people might be familiar with the traditional Indian Festival of Holi, known internationally as the ‘Festival of Colours’, and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, as well as a renewal of oneself from past errors and mistakes.
However there is a wonderful legend that precedes the celebration of this festival…The story goes:
The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. The special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worshiped only him.
Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right. Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her. Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu. The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.
And then comes the fun part of the whole festival, which was brought to us here in Tauranga for the first time by Dhruva Reid and his team. A whole day event, for the whole family, filled with music, food and drinks…and of-course colour, and lots and lots of it:
“Dhruva contacted me through facebook” says Areeb “As we do Bollywood events in Auckland and Australia. He got in touch with us as they were doing Coloursplash they wanted a bit of an Indian flare to the music. So they got me and DJ Charlie for that” Areeb laughs . “So we’re kicking this thing off this year, and hopefully we can have something regular.”
But it wasn’t just the Bollywood music that was falling on the ears of the crowd.
“It’s a mixture of genres as well you got electro house DJs and some Dubsteppy DJs, so should be good fun, hopefully a great turnout”
“Tauranga needed something like this for a long long time.” Big ups to Dhruva for making it happen here in the bay.”
To add to the traditional aspect of the event, the opening performance, was from an Indian Classical Dancer Ratna Venkat, who is primarily based in Auckland but had taken the trip to come to the Mount.
“I have been Involved in dance since I was 4”, says Ratna “I was trained in two forms of Classical dance: Bharat Natyam and KuchiPudi…” “I have been performing at various events, for a few years now, and through networking in Auckland I was introduced to the organizers of ColourSplash, We exchanged emails and phone calls and I was able to come up with the idea, and concepts, to embody the theme of ColourSplash… and present Indian Classical dance in a different way yet again.”
(Insert Shot of Ratna)
“My opening piece is all about nature and the 5 elements; it’s an instrumental piece… In Indian belief system, there are five elements: wind, water, fire, earth, and spirit. The basic concept is all about colour various colours of life, nature is also full of colour, So the sounds and movements of various aspects of those elements will create a beautiful metaphor for colour”
And that was exactly the case as Ratna got on stage and the dispersed crowd, came together on the lawn in front, and all sat down, as the beautiful music began to play, her feet stomped in perfect harmony with the beat and the vibration could be felt in the earth, her movements, embodied the elements, and they were channelled through her colourful traditional outfit. As she stepped off the stage, there was applause, but there were also faces of awe, as I am sure a lot of families who were there, may not have had a chance to witness a performance of this sort before. Well, we got to experience it now…and right here in the Bay.
That set the tone for, the beautiful chaos of colour, laughter, Electronic Bollywood music, and did I mention colour?
There was a calm before the storm, as the sun was scorching and the MC for the day, took the mic…”Are you ready to splash some colour into your Saturday?” And people, if they hadn’t already, rushed to the stall that was set up selling colour dyes, stacks and stacks begin to disappear, as they all made their way to the ‘colourzone’ which had been set up right infront of the stage…”Ready!”
The crowd crunched at their little packets of dye…
The packets were open…
The celebration began, and oh what wonderful joy it was, to see red, green, yellow, blue, orange….being thrown in the air, like a smoke signal, as if to say to the world just for that moment… ‘We are having a good time.’
But the moment could not be stopped as more and more people came to join in, and more colours were splashed into the air, more smiles more laughter, more music….and we were only a couple of hours into the event.
I had a chat with the MC for the day…
“We’re gonna be here all day, DJs running all day…We still got 3 more DJs to go and also Levani the drummer who’s gonna be epic as well. We’re gonna make it up as we go along, there are no planned activities, this festival doesn’t have an order…we’re just going to gauge the crowd, and basically have a really good time, that’s the important part”
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for the whole event, and had a leave in the late afternoon…But I didn’t leave unscathed, despite my best efforts to stay ‘clean’ from the colour, there were splashes and patches, that made it into my dreadlocks. But it was that kind of event. The first time here in Tauranga, this festival has a long tradition and following, and is celebrated in massive gatherings all over the world and even though, it wasn’t 1000s of people that were splashed in beautiful shades of joy, there were 100s…
And I will definitely be looking forward to next year, to see this wonderful event continue and get bigger and bigger. With more music and performances. As it is yet another way of building bridges between different cultures and traditions, evident by the fact, that I saw a very few Indian faces, but more of just ‘Us’ and ‘We’ loved being in that moment on that grass in coronation park, and letting go of work and giving into play.
Let the colour spread! Well done Dhruva Reid and your wonderful team, and all the people that were involved…Happy Holi!
By, Dhaivat Mehta – Editor, ARTbop alternative
Photos courtesy of Baz Mantis Photography: https://www.facebook.com/BazMantisPhotographer
and Toni Fisher: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Toni-Fishers-Photography-To-Share-With-You/200634706790195