Holi, or the Festival of Colors, which heralds spring and celebrates the pastimes of Lord Krishna and his eternal consort Srimati Radharani, was once an esoteric festival celebrated mainly in India.
But today, thanks to festivals like the one at the Hare Krishna temple in Utah, USA, it has become a phenomenon across the Western World.
The latest country to host the event is Brazil, with last year’s hugely successful “Festival das Cores” drawing 25,000 people to Villa Lobos Park in Sao Paulo.
This year, the second annual festival will be held on October 25th at the much larger 545-acre Ibirapuera Park in the center of Sao Paulo. 200,000 people are expected to pass through the park on the day, with about 50,000 expected to pack in front of the stage and participate in the event.
The festival is organized by Krishna Murari Das with his company Verdi, which puts on cultural events and art festivals around the city.
Bharat Natyam Dance (Photo by Leandro Leão)
“Although my colleagues are not devotees, when I brought the idea of Holi to them, they liked it so much that now we are investing 90% of our time in it,” he says.
Krishna Murari and his colleagues are currently putting their energy into advertising the event in social media and working with media partners to get the word out to all major television channels, radio stations and newspapers.
Meanwhile under PROAC, a tax benefit law by the Sao Paulo State Department of Culture, major corporations like toothpaste company Colgate and transportation company Sigla will sponsor the event with funds that would have gone towards paying taxes.
Executed on a massive scale, Festival das Cores will mix Brazilian folk arts with Krishna conscious presentations to draw a diverse crowd.
The festival will start at 10:00am, with people spreading out their yoga mats on the grass as teachers from the Art of Living Foundation teach a yoga class from a huge stage decorated to look like a temple with Indian-style cloth drapings and 250 kilos of flowers.
A colorful presentation of Bharat Natyam, known in India as “the temple dance,” will follow, after which devotees from the International Society for Krishna consciousness will ascend the stage to sing bhajans and kirtan.
“The temple president at the ISKCON temple in Sao Paulo has an idea to have the devotees first appear in the crowd, and start dancing with them, like a flash mob,” says Krishna Murari.
During the kirtan, powdered colors will also be flung into the air, creating a joyous cloud as people dance and chant the Hare Krishna mantra.
“Last year, thousands of people were dancing and chanting with raised arms, like Lord Chaitanya,” says Krishna Murari. “It was very, very inspiring.”
At 12:15pm, legendary ISKCON musician Titiksava Karunika Das and his band Namrock will kick off a one-and-a-half-hour set of their special brand of danceable “mantra rock,” once again packed with names of Krishna. Again, the crowd will chant along and hurl rainbow clouds of powder into the sky.
At 1:30pm, Brazilian folk music band Xaxado Novo will take to the stage, followed by 20-member group Bloco Kaya Na Gandaia, which will get the crowd dancing with their sunny blend of samba and reggae. DJ Convidado will continue the nonstop music until 4:30pm.
Finally, the “Verdi Jam Session” will see all of the festival’s performers gather together along with other yet-to-be-confirmed special guests that may include famous Brazilian artists like Criolo, Negra Li, and Nando Reis, whose song Mantra, featuring the Hare Krishan mantra, was used in a national television show.
The session will comprise funk, jazz, and samba influences, and conclude with a group performance of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, again inspiring the crowd of thousands to chant the Holy Name.
During the event, sannyasis like Chandramukha Swami and Bhakti Dhira Damodara Goswami will speak about the spiritual history of Holi and connect it to Krishna consciousness, while devotees will make 10,000 prasadam sweet balls to distribute.
Holi organizers will also direct festivalgoers to the first ever Goloka Vibrations, a more direct Krishna conscious event to be held one week later, on Sunday November 2nd.
As Sunday is traditionally a day for funerals in Brazil, Goloka Vibrations’ slogan will be “We Are Not The Body, We Are The Soul,” with a mood towards finding solace and joy in spirituality and chanting Hare Krishna.
Thus, it will feature a japa meditation workshop, an acoustic set by Titiksava Karunika, and kirtan and bhajanas by other devotee musicians.
The event will also create a “be a devotee for a day” kind of experience for attendees. “They’ll learn how to cook simple Hare Krishna dishes and offer them, then they’ll receive a card with the offering mantras and recipes,” says Krishna Murari. “They’ll also learn to apply tilak and gopi dots, and dress up in saris or dhotis that they can buy and take home with them afterwards.”
The plan is to hold Goloka Vibrations every two months, at a location the Sao Paulo temple rents for its larger festivals such as Janmastami.
The role that Festival das Cores plays in all this is a big one.
“Festival das Cores is a portal to make Krishna consciousness more accessible to everyone,” says Krishna Murari. “Last year, people who went were all saying ‘It was the best day of my life,’ on our Facebook page. I think that when they go to Holi, they realize that something about this festival is just so right.”
Next year, Festival das Cores organizers plan to make the event national, with either buses bringing people from all over the country to one location, or a national tour. Already, an extra event in March 2015 has been confirmed on the island of Ilhabela.
“We’re definitely going bigger,” Krishna-Murari grins.
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