Holi is here: Respecting the sacredness of other beliefs

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Holi is here.

For those that don’t know, Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, is a Hindu festival that takes place every spring. While the festival has traditionally been celebrated in places with predominantly Hindu or Indian populations, such as India and Nepal, the festival has become increasingly popular over the years in American and Europe.

Some friends and I had the opportunity last year to participate in a Holi event — an amazing and spiritual experience. The event took place on the grounds at a legitimate Hindu temple. During the festival my friends and I struck up a conversation with some of the Hindus who worked at the temple.

I was dismayed to find out that the event — all about universal love, brotherhood, and happiness — had not been full of much brotherly love or happiness for these Hindus. They had opened up this festival for all to take part in, regardless of differing beliefs, and there were very few rules. One of the few that I noticed were signs placed everywhere telling people not to color the temple.

Even without the Hindus pointing it out, it was clear to see the signs went unheeded. Colorful handprints and splotches covered the temple all over. We learned from the Hindus that it would costs thousands of dollars to wash off the temple after Holi — money not easily obtained. We were also told that people had toppled a statue or two as well. There was talk among the Hindus that the temple might have to be closed off the following year.

I could not help but think how things would play out if these same things had been done  conversely — if the other denominations gathering at Holi had their churches or temples covered with handprints. There would be an outcry if others experienced the same lack of respect and desecration in their own homes or places of worship.

Admittedly, I’m not an expert in Hindu culture and I don’t subscribe to Hindu beliefs. But I am an ardent believer in the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

I’ll be attending Holi again this year, and this time I’ll be watching out for those who desecrate the sacredness of the opportunity they’ve been given. If you’re attending Holi I hope you’ll do the same and spread the word: Treat others’ sacred spaces as sacred as your own.

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