Church urges Christians to participate in the Hindu color festival Holi

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Picture Caption: Divine Word Father Roy Thomas (far left in shirt) joins young people smearing colored paint on each other to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors, in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, on March 2. (Photo by

Bhopal: A Catholic Church leader in India has encouraged Hindus celebrating Holi on March 2 to welcome people of all religions so the event, also known as the festival of colors, can serve as a bridge between different faiths.

In Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh, which has been branded a hotbed of anti-Christian activity, people could be seen dancing to the sound of beating drums throughout the day. They daubed colored paint on each others’ faces and clothes and sprinkled water to mark the advent of spring and wish for a plentiful harvest.

“It is a festival of joy and unity, peace and harmony for all India,” said Bhopal Archbishop Leo Cornelio.

The prelate wished “happiness and prosperity to our Hindu brethren” in the predominantly Hindu state, where he has been making efforts to build inter-religious amity by promoting the festivals of each faith.

Archbishop Cornelio, who also serves as chief of the state bishops’ council, made an appeal for “maintaining unity and harmony in the country” in a special festive message.

“The entire Christian community is with the majority community promising our support for all forms of universal brotherhood,” he said.

The prelate’s appeal comes as Christians complain of rising cases of radical Hindu violence after the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.

A report last month by Persecution Relief, an ecumenical forum that records Christian persecution in India, reflected the spike in attacks.

It said 736 attacks against Christians were reported in 2017, more than double the 348 cases in 2016.

Christians make up less than 1 percent of the state’s 73 million people. They suffered 52 attacks last year, up from 28 one year earlier, according to the report.

(pic below showing Hindu God Krishna playing Holi)


What is Holi?

Holi is a Hindu festival that marks the arrival of spring. Known widely as the Festival of Colour, it takes place over two days, and is a celebration of fertility, colour, and love, as well as the triumph of good versus evil. 

People take part in Holi all around the world, but it is celebrated the most in parts of India and Nepal. It is often associated with the coloured powders that end up coating its participants after they’ve thrown them at each other. But this is just one part of Holi, which is split into two events: Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi. 

Holika Dahan takes place the night before Rangwali Holi. Wood and dung-cakes are burned in a symbolic pyre to signify good defeating evil (in Hindu Vedi scriptures, the God Vishnu helps burn the devil Holika to death).

The next morning, people gather in public spaces and take part in Rangwali Holi. This is a raucous affair where people chase each other around, throwing handfuls of coloured powders (known as gulal) at one another, while getting drenched in water.

Why is it celebrated?

In the scheme of Hindu celebrations, Holi is a relatively secular one. Different mythologies form a basis for this festival. First and foremost is the burning of the devil Holika, but it also draws on the legend of Radha and Krishna. Krishna loved Radha, but felt self-conscious about how different their skin-colours were. So on the advice of his mother, he went and playfully painted her face so it was the same colour as his. It is said that lovers often celebrate Holi in this tradition, by colouring their faces the same colour during the celebrations. 

Pray for:

  1. Communal harmony in India
  2. That Christians, Hindus and Muslims will respect each other beliefs

(with significant input from Ucan and The Independent UK)

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