In India a riot of colour pervades its religious festivals. Every shade has a significant
meaning or represents an emotion. But we are all influenced by colours. So perhaps it
isn’t surprising that they have started to find their way into the driving experience too.
Every year in spring, thousands and thousands of people head to Banke Bihari in
Vrindavan, India, to celebrate the start of spring.
It is the official beginning of spring today in Vrindavan. Holi, one of the oldest, most
popular and most flamboyant of Indian feasts is celebrated today. Nearly imperceptible
rustling can be heard all over the city. The cows are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the
narrow streets are filling with more and more people, some of them calmly others
chatting merrily with friends, colleagues or their families. At the crossroads, the swarming streams of people are merging into a compact flux. Their aim: Banke Bihari,
one of the biggest shrines in the country. The temple is dedicated to Krishna, who grew
up in Vrindavan and allegedly where he fell in love with his friend Radha.
The mass of worshippers gets stuck in the end. The view of the sky is free, unlike the
way forward. Insurmountable walls made of sandstone surround the temple hall. A
quivering Radhe, Radhe is coming out of the depth of the temple. The chanting should
emphasize the presence of Radha in nearly every earthly interaction. It is a greeting, an
apology and a farewell at the same time. It is only during the celebration of Holi, when
people are allowed to behold the black statue of Thankur. At other times, the
representation of the young Lord Krishna remains veiled and is to be protected against
evil looks. Everybody yearns to see it. We can get neither forward, nor back now. It is hot
in here and the temple is full to bursting, filled with sounds of screaming, blaring and
cheering. And above all that, shrill trills of the whistles which are used by the guards to
make the crowd move on through the temple. Squeeze forward, have a look and go!
Next! Elbows, shoulders and limbs seem to be everywhere along with little children
among all that. A man is boosting the crowd from crackling loudspeakers. The air is
overflowing with power and energy.
The curtain is lifted and the audience becomes ecstatic at the sight of Lord Krishna. The
hands reach up to sky and the worshippers throw themselves with humility on the floor.
The Brahmas armed with giant water pumps are sluicing the crowd with floods of
colourful water from a platform. Full buckets are poured over the heads. The crowd is
soaking wet; and happy.
When the curtain is lifted and the audience becomes ecstatic at the sight of Lord
Krishna, they reach their hands up to sky.
Gulal, the colourful powder, is being catapulted from platters over the heads of the
gathering. Tiny particles are mingling with the incident rays of morning light, giving rise
to a bizarre play of colours. People are changing colours like chameleons from red to
yellow, blue and green. Crimson rose petals are pouring down like rain on people. It is a
breathtaking atmosphere in which Lord Krishna is praised in unison. Outside the temple
walls, a colourful game is going on: Buckets full of water are being poured down from the
roofs on the passers-by. Old and young, men and women, all are mutually sprinkling the
gulal powder on each other.
The 22-year-old Apurwah from Hardiwar is navigating her way through the crowds. The student travels with her family to Vrindavan every year. Her face is beaming through the
pink and yellow and green colors. “There are various legends explaining the origin of Holi”, she explains. “For example the one about king Hiranyakaship who wanted to kill his son Prahlanda who was saved by his faith in Lord Vishnu”, she says. “Holi is thus not only a celebration of harvest and fertility, but also a celebration of victory of good over evil. Old disputes are to be settled, social barriers removed, existing friendships and
relationships renewed. „All barriers disappear during Holi”, explains Apurwah. “All people are colourful and all are equal – no matter which caste they belong to or what their status is.”
Whole streets are flooded by dark crimson, the dominant colour of Holi. It symbolizes purity, joyfulness, power and vitality. Yellow stands for life, light, truth and immortality.
This is the reason, why Indian brides wear yellow dresses before their wedding, to ward off evil spirits. In Hinduism, green can mean life as well as death. Blue is a symbol of divine enlightenment as well as the highest consciousness.