Human Flower Project

Holi—Flower Splattered and Equal

Caste and class differences disappear under festive camouflage: smears of orange, green and yellow. Celebrate Holi!


A local “Radha” throws flower petals during celebrations of

Holi in Khatraj, India

Photo: Ajit Solanki, for AP

With the first full moon of springtime, India lights its bonfires and pours on color. Holi, the most exuberant of Hindu festivals, begins today. The holiday celebrates the powers of faith and fecundity—how happy can you get?

Holi celebrates the survival of Prince Prahlada who, in defiance of his father,  worshipped Lord Vishnu. To kill the prince, the old king plotted with his sister Holika, who claimed to be immune from burning. He sent his pious son to sit with her in a bonfire. But the devoted Prahlada survived as Holika was incinerated. Ding-dong the witch is dead!

On the first night of Holi, there will be bonfires lit, banishing evil and wintertime in one blaze. And on the second day, Dhuleti, the festival of colors erupts. The celebration is especially fervent in Northern India—Jaipur, Mathura, Vrindavan… Though Holi has followed Hindus across the world. Here are some photos of this year’s festivity in Dubai.

Holi also remembers the love between Krishna and Radha. It’s said that Krishna, of the blue complexion, “complained to his mother Yashoda about why Radha was so fair and he so dark. Yashoda advised him to apply colour on Radha’s face and see how her complexion would change.” In keeping with this suggestion, celebrants shower one another with bright colors. When everyone’s smeared with purple and yellow, it’s hard to see castes, genders, and ages, to tell the big shot from the small fry.

imageDressed for Dhuleti

Photo: Grandpoohbah

Providing this social camouflage, street vendors sell colored powders called gulal.  But more and more Holi-rollers have discovered that synthetic colors can cause problems—burning the skin or irritating the eyes.

(For obvious reasons, people are also seeking safer, flower-based colorings for their traditional Holi foods.)

There’s increased demand for natural dyes this Holi season, and of course that means a return to flowers.

Here’s a wonderful site that explains how to make your own pigments for this year’s Holi flinging. There are recipes for every color of the rainbow.

imageTesu (Butea monosperma)

Photo: Plant Creations

We are especially excited to learn about the beautiful palash blossom, also known as “Flame of the Forest” and Tesu. Butea monosperma is an Indian native that makes a marvelous orange-yellow dye. Suited to the season, the palash tree flowers in March. Its blossoms look like lively flames.

“Legend says that Lord Krishna used to play Holi with Tesu flowers,” so there you have it. “The flowers are soaked overnight in water and can also be boiled to obtain a fragrant yellowish – orange colored water. The dried flowers can be dried and powdered for a orange powder.”

We wish all our friends in India and Hindu readers everywhere happy Holi. And we pass along a Holi greeting—jollier than the West’s “Get over yourself,” kinder and airier than “lighten up.”

“Bura na mano, Holi hai”—- “Don’t feel offended, it’s Holi.”

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/14 at 12:15 PM


Very interesting cultural interpretation for flowers. It is strange how some cultures associate different things from the same flower. An example of this is we associate the lily flower around easter in North America but in many asian cultures it is associated with death.

Posted by Lily on 05/19 at 11:36 PM
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