Monday, March 05, 2007


Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I was invited to a Holi (pronounced Holy) party at 5 in the evening on Saturday. It went something like this. I received a SMS message from Vivek at the center where I did my panchakarma saying "Jane, you are cordially invited to celebrate Holi with us at the center at 5 . Hope you can come". I replied: "I'd love to...should I wear old clothes or not to worry?". HE replied: " To never know!"

So, now to an explanation of Holi. I know from stories of other people that Holi is a Festival where people throw colors at each other and they are very difficult to wash out of your clothes afterwards. I've seen pictures and the truth is, although it looks like fun, I was not particularly thrilled at the idea of "playing Holi". But I figured at a party held at the center with serious adults, how

bad could it be??

However, before going down, I changed my clothes and wore something which I would not be terribly upset about finding stained afterwards if that were the case. And then on top I put my nice Kameeze shirt which Shakti had given me as a present and off I went. Not before finding Ainat who was interested in coming along, so I had both support, company on the way home in the dark, and, as it turned out, a private photographer to boot. In the end, it was a good idea as you will see further on...

We set off and arrived at the center to find other people as well who had either previously done treatments there or were currently doing them...all women. Several young Israeli girls, two young American girls, an older French woman, Ainat and myself...and of course Vivek, Deepak and Babita.

Everyone was a little uncomfortable to begin with, standing around, not knowing exactly what to do, and just about 5:30, the French woman, the last to arrive, came in apologizing for being late and Vivek said "You are not are right on time..this is India" (so, another reason why Israelis are so comfortable in India, we live on the same clock as the Indians!)

They asked us all to take seats around the yoga hall, and we would begin by chanting OM together, then we would do some pranayama, then some meditation, then some more far, doesn't sound like much of a party and certainly nothing to worry about.

All went well, and then Vivek said he would explain the mythology behind the Festival. In short, it involves a wicked King who decided he was god and everyone had to bow down to him. His young son, refused saying he would pray only to the real god (is this beginning to sound familiar with a slight change of characters?) The King of course decided he had to kill his son as an example to the people...and joined forces with his sister Holika, who had a special cape which would protect her from fire and they conspired to have the child sit on her lap and set her afire while wrapped in her cape and burn the child to death. As things would have it, a very strong wind came up, the cape was blown off her and around the child, and of course she was killed and he was saved. Try as he might, the king could not kill the child etc., etc., etc., and in the end was killed himself in a very clever way....enough for now.

So, the original celebration of this great event was to light bonfires (covering Lag B'Omer as well) in memory of the fire which killed Holika, but over the ages the idea has developed into throwing colors all over each other and then getting drunk!

You might remember the pictures in a previous post from the Market with a picture of piles of colors being sold. These are the colors used to throw on people, the first day, when we were invited, just dry colors...the second day, and the more "dangerous" one, mixed with water which makes them impossible to wash out afterwards.

Well, we honestly did not think that these two serious men would be into any of this stuff, but after this story, Vivek promptly announced that this was the one day of the year where serious people like himself could do anything they feel like, behave like children, and in general, let loose...we began to worry a little, but not really because next it was announced that we were going to sing Spiritual songs...OK..sounds good, and the first person they picked to sing a spiritual song was ME...which of course I refused to do...I never sing ANYTHING in public, and certainly no spiritual songs came to mind at the moment anyway (afterwards, when I thought about it, I could have gotten all the Israeli girls together and we could have sang some Purim songs, but that was after I had returned home in a festival, silly mood...). So Deepak began singing Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, and we all joined in "with the clapping of the hands" as directed. Again, there was some discomfort in the whole thing up to this point, but we were all good sports, not wanting to ruin their party.

Following the chanting, we were all invited to chant some OMs, which we did happily, and then some Nadi breathing (using alternate nostrils) and this was really begin to make us feel that this would be a very "spiritual" kind of party, but also quite boring! After getting us into a place where we were good at taking directions and following Deepak's instructions, it was then announced that the dancing would begin. Well, they put on some Indian music and both got up and began dancing, and before I know what had hit me, had me up and at it, pretty much in the middle, in the place of honour. I was not very comfortable, but the other girls made feeble efforts at dancing as well and clapping hands in rhythm, and then I just decided I was going to take Vivek's advice, enjoy the holiday spirit and act like a child. Then I realized I was the shyest child imaginable and never would have gotten up to dance "in public", so came to the conclusion that I had to be the NEW ME!! And let loose. First I just followed Vivek's lead...turns out he is a good dancer...and then just started doing my own thing (which Ainat told me afterwards was great and she was surprised at how uninhibited I was...she didn't think I was so this really is the birth of a NEW ME it sems!).

The dancing became more and more frenetic and we really worked up a sweat, and then all of a sudden, the music stopped, and vivek announced "Now we begin to play Holi!" We all went outside immediately trying to decide what they meant, but we didn't have to wait long...they rolled up all the floor coverings, yoga mats, etc., brought in a small table with colors,
(this is the table towards the end of the color throwing!)

came in with old clothes on themselves and called us all back in. We looked at each other, and everyone began to strip down as much as possible so as to save the good clothing...I luckily had on a black shirt. And in we went. It all began very simply, with good humor and light color throwing,

but like a good snowball fight, picked up in speed and intensity very quickly, and the longer it went on, the more fun we had as you can see from the rest of these pictures! It is great to get smeared with colors when you know you can smear back!!

So, this whole post is filled with was a great, liberating evening, and I came home just glowing...I really had the most fun I've had in a very very long time! And so thankful to these two lovely people for inviting me.