Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Whole Lot of Holi at the Library

Teens have a chance to learn about Indian culture and get messy – really messy – during the Holi on the Lawn celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at the Mentor Public Library’s Read House.

If you haven't heard of Holi, it's both a religious and cultural festival in India.

The mythological origin of Holi differs in different parts of India, but it always coincides with the beginning of spring.

The most common origin story for Holi involves an evil king (Hiranyakashipu,) his son (Prahlada, who -- unlike his father -- was an ardent devotee of the Hindu god Vishnu) and daughter (Holika, who took after her father more than her brother.)

Hiranyakashipu wanted to get rid of his son but nothing he did could destroy him, so he enlisted his daughter to take Prahlada with her into a fire. Key detail: Holika had previously been granted a boon that made her immune to fire.

However, despite her boon, Holika was destroyed by the fire. Meanwhile, Prahlada was protected by Vishnu.
Narasimha, an incarnation of Vishnu, slays Hiranyakashipu while Prahlada watches.
Revelers celebrate Holi with bonfires, music, dancing and by throwing brightly colored powder or water at one another.

In the west, Holi is best known for these playful and colorful celebrations. (Hence, Holi also being known as the Festival of Colors.)
Group celebrating Holi in Vashni, Navi Mumbai, India -- courtesy of Wikimedia
When Meredith Tomeo – the librarian who organized the Holi program for Mentor Public Library – attended American University, they held a Holi celebration every year. She said the festival was fun and it also made her more interested in India and Indian culture.

“I think it will be great for the teens,” Tomeo said of the Holi program. “It’s a good way to learn a little about India, have some fun and get messy.”

Holi is celebrated in February or March in India. However, Northeast Ohio’s climate necessitated a change of date so the teens could celebrate outside.

Tomeo will begin Holi on the Lawn by explaining to the teens what Holi is and why it’s celebrated. Then, there will be music and the same throwing of colored powder that marks Holi celebrations from Mentor to Mumbai.
Holi celebration at the University of New Mexico
Teens are encouraged to wear a white shirt and old clothes because they will get messy.

Holi on the Lawn is free and open to all teenagers. However, registration is required. People can register by calling (440) 255-8811 ext. 216 or on the Mentor Public Library’s web site.

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