Photos by Raheel Kazi

A bright and vibrant cloud hung over Bellevue Downtown Park for the annual Holi festival, the day when India marks the arrival of spring and celebrates the end of winter.

Holi expands beyond the Indian community, and other communities joined the festival celebrations on Saturday at the Bellevue Downtown Park. The festival was organized by the non-profit organization Child Rights and You (CRY).

Holi is a traditional festival for Hindus, but the festival is celebrated all over the world. The true spirit of Holi is seen at all Holi events. People come together from all walks of life to participate in Holi. Revelers throw vibrant colored powder on each other, leaving festival-goers coated in color by the end of the day. This shading of one another in bright colors has a significant meaning of all participants being one and equal.

Holi attendee Nicole Weeks was in the group of twelve at the Bellevue event. She was painted pink in colorful powder all over her face. It was her first time at the Holi festival. “It was a beautiful experience to be able [to] dance to techno music and to an array of colors,” said Weeks. She said she had read about the festival on the internet and had just a little mythological knowledge of the festival.

Mythological roots

In India, Holi is celebrated on the last full moon of the month. There are two parts of the Holi celebration: Holika Dahan, and Rangwali Holi. Holika Dahan takes place the night before Rangwali Holi. A symbolic pyre, consisting of wood and cow dung cakes, is lit. The fire symbolizes good defeating evil.
Rangwali Holi is celebrated the next morning after Holika Dahan. The Rangwali celebration originates from Lord Krishna, who has blue skin. As the myth is told, Krishan loved Radha who was of fair complexion and felt self-conscious because of this. Krishna complained to her mother about their different skin. To ease her son’s feelings, Yoshadha, mother of Krishna, suggested he paint Radha’s face so it was the same color as his. It is believed that this is where from the custom of coloring loved ones came from.

Holi in Bellevue

The festival of Holi is all about fun, frolic, colors, and merrymaking, as it’s a celebration of everything lively and youthful.

There were many young people in attendance at the Bellevue celebration. They smeared each other with colored powder and danced to the beats of a Bollywood song played by the DJ RDX. Pink, red, blue and green colored the revelers’ faces. In India, people typically also play with colored water, but here in western Washington, the winter temperatures kept people from doing so.

A Lynnwood resident, Jahmela Jenkins, attended this Holi celebration organized by CRY for the last three years. Jenkins thinks that it is good to participate in the festival and also to support the mission of CRY. Jenkins said she comes every year because to her, the celebration and community are “welcoming and inclusive.”

CRY Seattle has been organizing a Holi fundraiser since 2010. Rajesh Munshi, senior volunteer for CRY, said: “CRY’s purpose is to help all children live a healthy and productive life. We feel that we have an incredible responsibility to help accomplish this goal. We would positively like change the lives of millions of underprivileged children. The funds raised through Holi will help us support projects for children towards these goals.”

Another participant of the festival, Abhik Das, a data scientist who recently moved to the Seattle and is miles away now from friends and family, was skeptical about joining the Holi celebration because he says he hardly knew anyone. “Initially I was not sureI was going to celebrate Holi this year, but thanks to the organization for organizing this event,” he said. Although he wished the weather could be warmer to use colored water.

The sun did come out, though. “The sun helped us amass over 2,200 attendees to enjoy colors, Bollywood music, and scrumptious Desi food. All the hard work put together by the team bore great results as we raised over $30,000 for CRY. This was over four months of planning and working with the lovely City of Bellevue staff, fire and police departments.” On the day of the event, the team started at 8:00 AM and ended at 8:00 PM, with most of us not eating anything until all was done. “Proud of my team. The attendees were very supportive and appreciative and helped us clean the park quite a bit!” said Paresh Mundade CRY Seattle volunteer and event lead.

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