MOUNDSVILLE - It is a tradition dating back thousands of years in India. For one day, complete strangers get together to celebrate life and each other. As part of the celebration, people participate in a "color throwing" in which brightly colored organic starch is thrown into the air. Often, celebrants throw the colors at each other.
On Saturday, the local Hare Krishna community hosted the first Festival of Colors at the Palace of Gold. The palace, located in the hills of Marshall County, is home to the New Vrindaban Community of Hare Krishnas. Vrindavana Das was the project manager for the festival.
"This is the first time doing it (the festival) is here in East Coast America," Vrindavana Das said. At noon, 300 people had shown up.
"We are expecting between 1,500-2,000," he said. "Most people are arriving around 3 p.m."
Vrindavana Das explained that the traditional Festival of Colors usually takes place over two days, though the Palace of Gold will only be doing one day this year.
"We are planning on two days in the future," he said.
He also emphasized the nonreligious but nonsecular nature of the event. "In India, it's not religious. It's just people coming together to enjoy life and share our love of each other without considering race, religion, class or whatever. We are all human beings. Let's just celebrate each other."
Yugal Kishore Das, a member of the New Vrindaban community, explained that the festival has a heritage of several millenia in India. "This is a happy festival signifying Holi in India," he explained. "It is a time when we can be happy and come together, share colors, eat, dance and enjoy."
Among the Hare Krishnas celebrating was Cita Rina. "We are re-enacting a pastime from the Baghavad Gita," explained Cita Rina. "It's for anybody who wants to join in the fun. We're very open about that."
A number of non- Krishnas were on hand for the festival Saturday. Among them were Bryanna DeFazio and Jordyn Clements.
"We just came up for the day to have fun and enjoy the experience," DeFazio commented.
"We're excited to be here," Clements said. "It's great to just have fun with complete strangers," she said, admiring the free-spirited nature of the event.
From their spot in the shade, Tanner Sebastian and Sara Dinwiddie also were enjoying themselves.
"It's our first time doing something like this," said Dinwiddie. "It's awesome! I hope a lot of people show up."
"I'm having a wonderful time," added Sebastian.
Aside from the color- throwing, food and drink were served and musical entertainment was heard throughout the day. One of the musical groups was The Other Tribe. According to an interview with the group, they have been playing bongos and spinning fire for morethan seven years. They are mostly local, often performing around Wheeling and St. Clairsville.
Smitha Krshna Das came to America from Mumbai, India to visit his daughter in Washington, D.C. As an Indian, he had experienced the festival first hand at its birthplace.
"In India, this is Holi's festival," Smitha Krshna Das said. "It's traditionally held in March or April in India, but to have the spirit, you can celebrate anytime." While important on the spiritual level, he also said the festival has a social significance. "It's a community festival," he said. "It gives people a chance to meet each other."