Colorful Religious Indian Celebration in Pines Features Prayers and Powders

March 5, 2007

Author: Juan Ortega

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel,0,7305940.story?coll=sfla-news-front

PEMBROKE PINES · Shaving cream dripped off his hair and nose. Purple and red powder smeared his face.

But Kush Shah, 20, of Pompano Beach, was actually having a joyful religious experience. He was one of about 200 adults and children celebrating Holi, an annual Indian festival, by praying for peace, enjoying native foods and chasing and marking one another with colorful powders. The Indian Religious and Cultural Center, a 400-member organization in Cooper City, hosted the celebration at C. B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines.

"My fingernails will be pink for a week. That always happens," Shah said. He doused a boy with water from a bottle, clearing powder from his eyes.

The Holi celebration, observed for thousands of years, marks the coming of spring and also commemorates several legends in Hindu mythology. One prevailing legend is the story of a prince whose faith in a god thwarted attempts by Holika, a demon, to kill him, according to Poonam Wadhwa, a Plantation resident and the cultural center's president.

The legend says the prince survived and the demon was burnt to ashes, so Indians celebrate the triumph of good over evil by displaying bright colors.