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Thursday, March 24

Joy 2: Happy Holi! Happy Purim! Happy Easter!

I would've included mention of Holi in today's Joy post but the Indian (and Nepali) holiday, like Diwali, starts on different days in different parts of India; I thought it was already over. It turns out that today, March 24, is the official date for the holiday this year -- although another source says "Holi in 2016 will start on Wednesday, the 23rd of March and will continue for 2 days until Thursday, the 24th of March." 

So we have Purim, the joyful holiday of deliverance from evil celebrated by the Jewish people, and Holi falling on the same day -- and on Sunday we have Easter! The Sign doesn't get more auspicious than that.

This afternoon, when I realized today was Holi, I raced around the internet to find Holi stores to add to the Joy post and came across this jaw-dropping news report from March 20:
Pakistan's Sindh province declares public holiday on Holi
The move comes after the National Assembly (NA) adopted a resolution to take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as holidays for minorities. [...]
(In practice the Holi celebration won't be confined to Sindh or minorities because only a real grump doesn't like the holiday, which has long been suppressed in Pakistan.)

The importance of the Sindh resolution can't be underestimated. The news is on par with the Egyptian government's recent historic decision to include in Egyptian public school books mention of the peace declared, decades ago, between Egypt and Israel. 

Holi is a Spring festival and, as with Diwali -- the Fall harvest version of the holiday -- celebrates the triumph of good over evil. But Holi is a riotous occasion with everyone taking to the streets to good-naturedly squirt colored water from big water guns and pelt each other with bright-colored powders. This is one holiday when you don't want to dress up in your finest. There's also lots of song and dance and exchanging of sweets.  

The holiday, as this March 24 RT report highlights, has gone global with many non-Indians around the world joining in the fun -- a trend that's been building for years. Even a Google Doodle got in the act this year, I learned from RT.

There is another historic aspect to Holi celebrations, and that is the participation of India's Mātā Amṛtānandamayī Devī, "better known simply as Amma, a Hindu spiritual leader and guru who is revered as a saint by her followers," according to Wikipedia.  

The first time I saw a photograph of Amma's face and robe smeared with Holi powders, which was last year, I might have keeled over in shock if I hadn't been sitting down. It's just not done, it's never been done, for an Indian spiritual teacher of her level -- or any level for that matter -- to join in the Holi merriment to that extent. 

[UPDATE: I should've written "to my knowledge."  After this post was published Charles Cameron sent photographic proof that an Indian Hindu spiritual teacher (who became an American citizen), and is today known as Prem Rawat, celebrated Holi in the USA with his followers in the early 1970s, and that this included his use of the traditional Holi colored water and powder. From the Wikipedia article about him, in the early 1980s Rawat began to disassociate himself from the Hindu religion including its celebrations, and shedded the role of a spiritual teacher. He eventually converted his organization to a purely secular one called Elan Vital; Wikipedia lists his occupation as "inspirational speaker."]

Even Sathya Sai Baba, the 'Guru to The Masses,' would not have allowed himself to be smeared with colored powders -- and he would never have flung the powders at people. From photographs Amma has been doing both for some years.

She's been doing a great many other things that have never been done before, such as kissing babies, hugging people and letting people hug her. It is unheard of. One is allowed to touch the guru's feet -- the feet being the symbol of the divine's involvement in the realm of ordinary appearances -- but not hug him, or her.

The kicker about Amma is her 'previous' incarnation. Although she's never (to my knowledge) publicly verified this, the story is that a very great Yogi, whose name escapes me at the moment, was walking along a street one day and suddenly he burst into laughter. When asked what he found funny, he replied that he'd be incarnating next as a female, and named the village where she would be born -- the same village in which Amma was born.  Probably people thought he was talking in riddles. 

But, yes. What sits behind the cuddly, Holi powder-throwing baby kisser is a gen-u-ine Yogi.

What's the world coming to?  [smiling]

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