POV

Holi Day

And so, on this ever-holy Holi day, crowds of Hindis gather in the Smokey Oval to blast each other with colored dyes and powders…

Story and photos by Lance Steagall - lgsteagall@gmail.com
Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

In the literal sense, I took the J train to arrive at SMOKEY OVAL aka PHIL RIZZUTO PARK. But, if we take the Mad Saint’s advice and eschew geometry and geometrical systems of thinking, I actually arrived via the wrinkly tars of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—because although the festival I was en route to, the HINDI FESTIVAL OF COLORS, had nothing to do with the Buddhism adopted and admired by St. Jack and his BEATS, my first introduction to eastern religions was through his holy texts (Dharma Bums, Wake Up, et al). Forever after my mind’s eye has seen all Asiatic religions wreathed in the cigarette smoke of beatnik bodhisattvas.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Fitting, then, that I, a lapsed catholic like Kerouac–one who’d been Sunday-schooled since my legs dangled from the pews–would be celebrating Easter weekend with a bunch of Hindus in Richmond Hill, Queens. There, the elevated stop at the ass-end of the J Train looked out over hordes of Indian demons walking the street with a garish, brightly pigmented joy.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

This Hindi Festival of Colors is known as Holi, not holy like the men that St. Jack praised as existing in milk and living in lilies; not holy like the unknown buggered and suffering beggars of the Beat Generation. Holi like Holika, the demoness and sister to one King Hiranyakashipu, who used the immortality granted him by Lord Brahma to wage war on the gods themselves; like Holika the aunt of the ever-pious Prahada, whose abundance of faith saved him from the same fire that Holika and her lack of faith were consumed by.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

And so, on this ever-holy Holi day, crowds of Hindis gather in the Smokey Oval to blast each other with colored dyes and powders that are meant to symbolize the Holi ashes. And, lo and behold, the chromatics of it are the same bright pink, violet and turquoise that dominate the Easter palette.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

The similarity’s worth noting. On the same weekend that the Catholics in Bensonhurst are celebrating Christ’s rebirth by dipping eggs in neon dyes, Hindus in Richmond Hill are celebrating Prahada’s miraculous survival with the same. In the words of the mad bodhi, truly, all is one–a truth most apparent to me in the moment a sari’d woman smeared a fuchsia streak across my left brow, and in retaliation I threw a cloud of pigment that hit her backside the same as St. Jack’s “yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” Easter and the Holi Festival, though their origins are separated by oceans, spring from the same holy source: a fertility ritual, one that wears the same colors no matter what guise it’s under.

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

Photo © Lance Steagall

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