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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holi and other hoildays

First, let me start by saying that I finally made it to the temple. There was a dance performance there by some students of my dance teacher. She suggested that I go and it made a good excuse to check out the place. I'm possibly more intimidated now. It's a large temple and there must have been a couple hundred people there. I didn't go into the room with the murtis (statues of the gods), I just went to the auditorium.

I think the theme of this blog has been that I have to learn to not worry over what other people are thinking of me. It always comes back to that. The fact is, I can't control other people. Maybe some will be offended by me. Maybe they'll think I'm just some stupid American who thinks "oh, karma is like so cool, man." But that's on them to deal with. It is not my responsibility.

I am reminded of another movie. A campy 80s movie with a lot of heart called The Last Dragon. I don't know if you've seen it. It's a Black kid living in Harlem who loves Chinese things. He studies kung fu and has a Chinese master and he wears Chinese clothes and follows Chinese customs. His family doesn't know what to make of him, but he just does what feels right to him.

I read a book once that talked about the experience of being a minority. I think that is part of what I am feeling. Being white, I'm used to being in the majority and I rarely think about my ethnicity or the color of my skin. It's a completely different experience when there's no other white person in sight. Being surrounded by Indians makes me extremely aware of being different and being a minority.

Back to the point. There wasn't really a Holi in the traditional sense today. I went to my boyfriend's dad's house and his sister and her husband and baby were there.

Knowing that his family doesn't have any experience with Indian things, I thought for Holi that I would make them an Indian dinner and bring a variety of Indian sweets for them to try. It was a lot of fun.

I wore a decorative bindi and they had no problem with it. For some reason I find it easier to wear the decorative ones and not feel self-conscious. It's the plain ones that make me stress. There's a lot of information out there about fashion bindis and they're just good fun for everyone. But when you're wearing just a small, plain bindi, it's clearly for another reason. Anyway, there will be a follow up post on the bindi experience another time.

For dinner I made Malai Kofta, which is not at all spicy, and even people who don't like Indian food would like it. It is balls of mashed potato and cheese deep fried and added to a tomato/cream sauce.

Then I made a traditional "milk shake" that is served at Holi, called Thandai.

Then I made kheer (rice pudding), barfi (Indian "fudge"), sesame gajjak (crunchy candy), and gulab jamun (which is the dessert you get at most Indian restaurants, deep fried flour balls soaked in syrup).

I did a lot of cooking! Totally worth it, though. Everyone said they learned a lot and enjoyed the food.

There are a lot of Hindu holidays. Also, in general, Indians like to celebrate and will celebrate any holiday for any religion around.

Interestingly, there is no Hindu holiday around the winter equinox. Probably because of the climate in India, but that's just a guess.

The big one that tends to get compared to Christmas is the Indian new year, Divali, also known as the festival of lights. That is in October usually. It depends because the Indian calender goes on a lunar cycle. There is also some confusion over time zones. India is a full day ahead of us, so there is disagreement over whether Americans should be celebrating at the same time as in India or on the same calendar day.

There is also a holiday where sisters make red thread bracelets for their brothers and the brothers promise to protect their sisters.

There are many surrounding the different events in the epic story, The Ramayana. For example, Rama's birthday and the day that Rama defeated the demon Ravana.

There's the birthday of Ganesha and the birthday of Krishna.

There's "Shiva's great night."

I think what I'll do is discuss each one in more depth as it comes up in the coming year.

Holi does not have a lot of religious significance. There is a story about a brave prince who goes into a fire and is not burned, proving his devotion to God. I look at it like Easter. Yeah, there's some stories about it's significance, but it's really just a chance to have fun and celebrate the spring time. Things in India get extremely messy. You can look up Google images for Holi and see people drenched in color. Another place to see it in action is the movie Outsourced. It's a "cross over" movie, an American movie taking place in India. The American guy gets very surprised by Holi.

My boyfriend's step-mom still wants to do it, she thought it sounded so fun, so she said when the snow melts we'll make a bonfire and throw colored rice powder.

Here's me at Holi last year:


  1. "The big one that tends to get compared to Christmas is the Indian new year, Divali, also known as the festival of lights. That is in October usually."

    That is very interesting the pagan Samhain (Halloween) is also considered a New Year's celebration.

    I will have to go look up that movie. :)

  2. The food you made sounds delicious. Maybe you could post recipes at some stage. I look forward to hearing/reading about the various holidays.


    Thought you might enjoy this. Just found it. :)

  4. Looks like fun, doesn't it? :)

  5. Hi Aamba,
    This is Prajakta here. Festival where "sisters make red thread bracelets for their brothers and the brothers promise to protect their sisters." called Raksha Bandhan i.e. Protection Band(Thread).

  6. I really wanted to do that one, Prajakta. My brother thinks I am out of my mind kooky, though! I don't think he would be willing to participate. I'll have to find some male friends to do it with.