The Hindu Festival Called Holi and The Color Run

DC Color Run 5K
DC Color Run 5K (Photo credit: Cosmic Smudge)
Girl at Holi Phagwa
Girl at Holi Phagwa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By now most people have heard of The Color Run. The Color Run company is a “for profit” venture though the runs I have been aware of have been connected with charity as well. The Color Run is a “five-kilometer, un-timed race in which thousands of participants are doused from head to toe in different colors at each kilometer.”1 Then, at the finish line there is a “Finish Festival” where even more colored powder is applied “to create happiness and lasting memories.”2 I’ve seen the pictures and it looks like a lot of fun.

What you may not know is that The Color Run looks a lot like what happens at the Hindu Holi Festival where people are covered in the same colors with the same results. Here’s a description of the Hindu festival:

The festival has many purposes. First and foremost, it celebrates the beginning of the new season, spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. It also has a religious purpose, commemorating events present in Hinduism. During this event, participants hold a bonfire, throw coloured powder at each other, and celebrate wildly. . . . The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli in Sanskrit, or DhulhetiDhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing scented powder and perfume at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Kacy Dahan (burning of Kacy) or Little Holi, after which Kacy dahan prayers are said and praise is offered. The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlada accomplished when Demoness Kacy, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Kacy was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his devotion. Like Kacy Dahan, Kama Dahanam is celebrated in India.3

So, as you can see, Holi is not simply some celebration of color!

Now, yes I am a Pentecostal, Evangelical pastor so I am always trying alert somebody about something. But I am not the only one whose eyebrows are raised over this connection. Here’s an excerpt from a blogger perturbed that The Color Run is white-washing Holi:

The race is supposed to end in something called a “Color Festival” (actually in quotes on the website as well). Sounds an awful lot like a digestible name for Holi. Sorta like how white people call Diwali the “Festival of Lights” even though this is a major over-simplification—I don’t think we just light a whole bunch of candles and call it a night.  Nope, we tell stories from the Ramayana, share sweets and gifts, say prayers, and welcome the New Year.  And at Holi, we don’t simply throw colors in each other’s faces—it’s a place to play with people you love and revel in the vibrancy of spring.  One of our favorite and most colorful holidays is being, pun intended, white-washed.  And it’s like we’ve been completely eradicated from this event as nowhere on the Color Run™ website is there mention of India, Holi, Krishna, or even spring.  Apparently this is a completely organic creation of the Color Run™ head honchos.  And they’re making loads of money off of it.4

This writer is incorrect when she says there is no mention of Holi on The Color Run website. Here is an excerpt from the FAQ page on The Color Run website:

What is the inspiration behind The Color Run™?

The Color Run 5k is the first paint race of its kind and was inspired by several awesome events, including Disney’s World of Color, Paint Parties, Mud Runs, and Festivals throughout the world such as Holi.  We wanted to create a less stressful and untimed running environment that is more about health and happiness!5

So, what should Christians do? Here’s what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 concerning meat offered to idols:

4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7 But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

The purpose of this article? I think as we participate with non-Christians out in the world we should at least know what we are endorsing or taking part in. If you say The Color Run is not about Hinduism, the people quoted in this article suggest otherwise. At any rate, armed with this information, the Christians I know will find some way to use it as an evangelistic tool.

Notes

1 http://thecolorrun.com/about/

2 Ibid.

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi

4 http://browngirlmagazine.com/2013/04/dye-ing-culture/

5 http://thecolorrun.com/faqs/

5 thoughts on “The Hindu Festival Called Holi and The Color Run

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