Today marks the Hindu festival of colors, called Holi, which commemorates the Hindu story of Prahlada, who was saved from being burned alive when the god Vishnu intervened. It marks the beginning of spring in India, and is most often celebrated with large crowds throwing colored dyes and powders at one another, in a kind of free-for-all atmosphere.
Today is also known as “Spy Wednesday,” the time when the Church remembers the story of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the authorities. During Holy Week, Christians everywhere reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and the saving grace of God through the power of resurrection.
Interesting, then, that these two festivals should intersect.
By that, I mean that it’s interesting to see two different stories from two different faith traditions, which have spawned very different celebrations, but which at their core celebrate the power of the Divine over death and destruction.
On the one hand, Hindus are celebrating the power of Vishnu over the death that had been proscribed for Prahlada. On the other, Christians are celebrating God’s victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus. Both traditions–Holi and Easter–now involve vivid colors and the conjunction of the celebration of spring with the celebration of victory over death.
Now, I’m not trying to make a connection here between Hindu and Christian teachings. It should be obvious to all who know me well which of these stories I will be celebrating this week (It’s the one about Jesus, of course). But what I am amazed with is the connection that we human beings make between this life and the next, and between God (the Divine) and power over death.
Death is the one thing that unites us all–Democrat/Republican, East/West, Christian/Jew/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist–you name it, we all face the same fate in the end. Religion is about what we make of that great equalizer–do we give death power over us, do we fight it, do we embrace it as the next stage in life, or do we see it as a temporary pain in the light of eternity?
Whatever answer you hold on to–and I know that the students I work with have many answers that they bring to the table–may you be encouraged that life always overcomes death. After all, it’s no coincidence that these festivals that celebrate life seem to come just as the new life of spring is peeking up out of the cold death of winter.
Have a happy Holi (and Holy) Week!