Throwing paint at strangers will usually get you into trouble – unless you do it during a few days in March to celebrate Holi, the Indian festival of colour.
Holi is a Hindu festival marking the beginning of spring in India. Some families may hold religious ceremonies, but for most it is a time for cheerfulness. Throwing paint and meeting with loved ones is a way of spreading the overpowering message of good over evil.
Originally Holi holds mythological and cultural significance, emphasising the power of truth and good conduct.
This year, people of all nationalities descended on Devonshire Square, Shoreditch, for 12 days during March to take part in the colourful event, House of Holi, hosted by the Indian restaurant, Cinnamon Kitchen.
A temporary party pod was set up outside the restaurant to host guests who made bookings online. In honour of the festival, officially celebrated on March 13, House of Holi handed out packets of paint, authentic Indian nibbles and compelling cocktails.
Chandini Dadi, 20, a second year Philosophy, Politics and Economics student at Goldsmiths, took part in Holi this year and spoke to Eastlondonlines about her experience as part of the British-Indian community in England.
“This year, my trip to Holi was different because I wasn’t with my family for the first time. It happened by mistake actually, I didn’t even know when Holi was this year. There were a lot of young people there and everyone was really friendly! The atmosphere was pretty much the same as it is back in India.”
Chandini and her family are originally from Vizag, on the South East coast of India. She was six when her mother moved to England to practice medicine. The family goes back to India almost every year. Chandini said: “I’m still very much connected to my roots. I FaceTime my family back at home quite a lot and I’m very aware of what’s happening there.” Her father is a primary school teacher in West Yorkshire.
“I return to India because I want to, not because I have to.”
She feels that festivals celebrated by people away from their native land have more significance: “Since you’re trying to hold on, you’re actually trying to still be in touch with your roots and keep those traditions. At the same time, I find that a lot of people don’t actually know or question why our festivals are celebrated in certain ways. ”
She talked about how her brother, 10, did not associate much with the country since he came to England when he was three months old.
Chandini said: “He is adamant that he is born here, he doesn’t even believe he was born in India. He doesn’t know the language. He watches Bollywood films with us only when he is forced to.”
When she was young, Chandini too felt different from her British classmates, but learnt the ways through children’s TV channels and shows.
“Even as a kid you realise that you’re different.”
Chandini felt that Indian festivals celebrated in England are for students or other individuals who live here for work. She said: “A large part of the people celebrate to find home away from home. Students who come over have an entirely different life from here. You have to get used to what is okay and acceptable. These festivals are things you relate to, where you can say you’re comfortable in this situation. It creates a safe space.”
Chandini said she had enjoyed playing Holi so much this year that she would probably do the same next year. She said: “I’ve had the most fun this year. Pretty much everyone there was a stranger but it was not noticeable. It brought everyone together. Holi is really fun because you let down your guard and it’s great to get messy.
“London is impersonal and I think the nature of the festival made it enjoyable even here!”