Thunderous shouts of “Holi Hai” (It’s Holi) filled the air Mar. 15 as hundreds of Bay Area residents packed the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple’s sprawling courtyards singing, dancing and showering each other with colors in what is one of the most loved Indian festivals.
The revelry this year was particularly well-attended as picture perfect weather lured people from as far as Berkeley and Millbrae.
“We have driven up from Millbrae and it’s been worth it. The weather is just lovely and we’re having the time of our life,” said Evelyn Desai, a banker who came to the temple with her girlfriends. They danced away in complete abandon and were soaked in color from head to toe — their faces barely distinguishable.
Celebrated each year with the advent of spring, Holi is an almost extreme version of face painting with the color play symbolizing the hues of the season.
From grandfathers who let loose to the old-time Bollywood favorite “Range Barse” to the young Indian American teens who screamed for this year’s smash-hit Holi song “Balam Pichkari,” the auspicious festival brought together families and the community.
“My grandparents love celebrating Holi and I am just so happy to be able to be here with them. We’re all having a lot of fun and right after the celebrations end, we’re going for a big lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant,” said 15-year-old Shreya Patel. Three generations of the Sunnyvale-based Patel came together for the festivities.
For little Ananya Trehan, who made her Holi début, the color bath, however, came as a bit of a shocker as she found herself overwhelmed with the riotous revelry.
Though stunned initially, she soon gelled into what turned out to be the party of a lifetime for the Trehans.
“It’s totally amazing. Our little one was shocked, surprised…shocked really…it’s a different experience with all the colors but she is getting the hang of it now,” Priya Trehan said.
But putting together the massive show with a minimal $7 fee is anything but easy. The Sunnyvale temple organizing committee members led by the now veteran Raj Bhanot were busier than a bee as volunteers worked from the wee morning hours setting up the venue and the food. It’s a tough task, but we’ve managed it beautifully year after year, the temple volunteers told India-West.
The Sunnyvale Holi celebration, a much-tempered version of its often-riotous Indian counterpart, ended with a three-hour children’s dance extravaganza organized and choreographed by volunteer mothers.
In rural India, prayers for the fertility of land and a good harvest mark Holi, but many others believe it to have a mythological significance as well.
Legend has it that an arrogant king who resented his son’s worship of Lord Vishnu as against his own, sought to kill the young boy. The king, having failed in all other attempts to murder his son, made his sister Holika, who had the power to withstand fire, sit with her nephew in her lap in a burning pyre, but while the boy survived his aunt was burnt to ashes.
Each year, a day before Holi, Hindus burn a symbolic bonfire, and remember the triumph of good over evil.