Community: Despite the ban on using paint, as is tradition, members of the Indian association still got into the spring spirit.
Photo: Steve Eastwood
Nothing prevents the Indian Association Luxembourg from throwing colourful events, not even a ban on colors. The IAL celebrated Holi on Sunday at the cultural centre in Capellen, and even though they weren’t allowed to use paint as is traditional in this spring festival, the 100 or so participants had a great afternoon all the same, with lots of dancing, singing, eating, drinking and simply enjoying each other’s company. And as for the missing paint, the bright bouquet of hues in the women’s saris--turquoise, mint, fushia, orange, canary yellow, violet, sapphire--gave it that joyful riot of colours Holi needs.
The IAL has been keeping traditions alive in Luxembourg for Indian families for nearly a quarter of a century--they celebrate their 25th anniversary next year--but although the famous festival of Diwali has been on their calendar from the beginning, Holi is a recent addition here. In fact, it’s only been held for the past three years, in different locations--none of which has allowed the group to use paints even though the non-toxic colours would wash off easily.
“We’d love to find a place where we could use colours, maybe an outdoor venue,” said IAL president Selvaraj Alagumalai. Given the last chilly breath of winter in the air last Sunday, wouldn’t an outdoor fest be risky? “If you’re in the spirit of Holi, you wouldn’t mind,” he says.
This year, however, the festival was held at the site that welcomed the very first IAL event all those years ago. One of the very memorable performances that year was by two talented toddlers--Alagumalai’s own twins, Swathi and Swetha--who were at the event Sunday, now blossomed into beautiful young women. Both of them said they’d grown up taking part in IAL activities, which has helped them feel connected to their Indian culture.
Holi is “not the same kind of religious holiday as Diwali,” said Ali Ashghar Sherwani, who presided over the association for 12 years. “It’s really about spring, joy, love, celebration. Although people are aware of the mythology behind it, but it’s really just fun.”
Those who want to delve into the legends can start with the one about Prahlad and his evil father Hiranyakshyap. The father thought he was a god and was angry when his own son refused to worship him but was faithful instead to Vishnu. He asked his sister Holida to get rid of the boy, and she planned to kill him by fire--while her magic fireproof cloak protected her from harm.
The cloak, however, wrapped itself about the boy--Vishnu’s reward to Prahlad for his faith--and Holida perished. That’s where the Holi bonfires come from--usually lit the eve of the event, and people smeared themselves with the ashes of the fire, which might be the origin of the paint smearing.
There are other legends too, but hearing about how Holi has been celebrated in Luxembourg without colours is reminiscent of another one, about a very different celebration and from a different culture--“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. In the Dr Seuss story, the Grinch wants to stop Christmas by stealing all its trimmings, but learns that it isn’t all the trappings that make Christmas what it is, it’s the love and spirit of those who celebrate it.
In just the same here--you can take the colours away from Holi, but you can’t dim the colourful spirit of the Indian Association of Luxembourg. That said, if anyone knows of a place where Holi can be celebrated in the traditional way for the association’s anniversary, please call them!