The Holi Festival of Spring is a traditional celebration growing in mainstream popularity, but will this result in a loss of culturally religious significance?
To discuss this concern, Tushta Krnsa das, the director of the Denver Krishna Temple in Colorado, talks about Hinduism and the Holi celebration in the United States.
Born in Japan and raised by a Shinto-Buddist father and Catholic mother, Tushta Krnsa das is a Third Culture Kid (TCK). Due to his upbringing and outside influences, Krnsa das couldn’t connect to his parents’ belief systems.
It wasn’t until he was in his late teenage years that he began his journey into the practice of Hinduism.
I started thinking about the meaning of life and what my sense of purpose is…. In hindsight, I feel like I was having awakening experiences of the path I was on in a previous life.
Krnsa das went on to read the Bhagavad-Gita scripture and study at an ashram in Boulder, Colo. Then he traveled with an elder monk for six years, honing his religious practice. Since 2009, he and his wife have taken leadership roles at their temple in Denver, Colo.
Krnsa das states that Hinduism, at its core, practices the human quality of servitude in a spirituality/soul-based relationship with ourselves and the divinity or energy that makes up everything around us.
There is a heavy embodiment of mutuality, reciprocity, inclusiveness and emotional attachment/love between devotees and their chosen gods. This intertwines with the physical and spiritual practice of servitude as well.
THE HOLI FESTIVAL OF SPRING
According to Krnsa das, the Holi Festival of Spring has many different variations of customs, but the one most frequently present in public media involves the color celebrations.
This is where everyone comes together to welcome and celebrate the flower-baring spring. The color celebrations are a symbolic representation of an ancient story about the deity Krishna having watersports with the milkmaid goddesses.
Krnsa das tells us that this illustrates the relationship between the devotional energy within divinity and self. It symbolizes the joy and “playful mellow” between an individual and the universe as a whole.
The Holi Festival of Spring, in short, is a traditional custom of reciprocating love, understanding, and divine energy back to the all-powerful divine source.
Is mainstream populatity creating a loss of traditionaly religious roots?
Krnsa das believes there is definitely growing popularity in yoga, mediation and traditional customs like the Holi Festival of Spring. He states that there is a real concern that these elements of Hinduism could lose their cultural significance.
Much like Valentine’s Day or New Years’, it’s also possible the Holi Festival of Spring could become a superficial celebration.
These physical and almost party-like aspects surronding Hinduism are super exciting and tangible to mainstream popularity. It breaks the boundaries of all external barriers within Hindu culture and has almost become something social and beyond religion.
However, despite this initial influx of popularity with no cultural interest, he is optimistic that the culturally religious significance will come later on.
Like yoga and meditation, the mainstream popularity may be superficial at first. However, once these aspects become a tangible part of someone’s reality, a spiritual awakening soon follows.
In the end, Krnsa das believes that regardless of whether you’re participating in the Holi Festival for religious sentiment or doing it as a way to do something fun with your friends, you’re still meaningfully partaking in the celebration of inclusivity, love and light.