Spring is in the Air
With Easter on its way, it's once again the season for wicker baskets, decorated eggs, and sugar-coated marshmallows. In keeping with the spirit, Easter is a burst of color intended to symbolize renewal and the arrival of spring. But some other religious holidays are celebrated with just as much flair. Following are some of the most wild from around the world. It's easy to see why
, a Hindu holiday that also marks the arrival of spring, is also known as the festival of colors. During Holi, Hindus celebrate a number of gods and myths during the occasion as the festival has picked up new meanings to its devotees. The holiday originally celebrated a young prince's devotion to the god Vishnu, even as the prince's father tried to corrupt his son and even kill him. During the holiday, participants celebrate with bonfires to ward off evil spirits, and throw brightly colored powder and water at one another -- and unsuspecting strangers.
Celebrated in Nepal by both of the nation's major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, Indra Jata is held for Indra, the king of heavan. According to legend, ancient settlers of the Katmandu Valley captured Indra while he was visiting the region to steal a flower for his mother. Upon learning his identity, the villagers promptly released him (although they continue to celebrate their achievement). In return, his mother, the goddess Dagini, promised rain and a safe passage to the afterlife. Celebrations center around who devotees believe to be a living goddess, known as Kumari, who is meant to symbolize the peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Buddhists.
Given how difficult it is to say Mahamastakabisheka upon seeing the name the first time, it may come as a relief to anyone not already familiar with the word that the festival is only held once every 12 years. During the holiday, practitioners of Jainism, an Indian religion with several million followers, celebrate by anointing an 1,800-year-old statue of the prophet Gomateshvara, also known as Bahubali, with milk, juice and spices such as vermilion or saffron.
This masked dancer is performs "The Dance of the Judgement of the Dead" at a Paro Festival. Performed at in a monastery in Paro, Bhutan, this dance is derived from the Buddhist Book of the Dead. The Paro Festival is a type of Tsechu, annual festivals held in different regions across Bhutan, each carrying a different meaning from Buddhist teachings or history.
Originally celebrated as a pagan holiday when it was first established more than 700 years ago, the Ati Atihan festival changed its religious affiliation following the arrival of Christians to the Philippines. The festival lasts for a week. Toward the end, the streets of Santa Nino, the island where the festival is held, is filled with costumed dancers parading through the crowds, guided by a drumbeat that keeps all the action going.
Poi Sang Long
Observed by Buddhists in both Thailand, as shown in this photo, and Myanmar, Poi Sang Long is essentially a rite of passage as young boys undertake the life of a monk for a brief period of time. The festival itself lasts only three days. On the first day, the boys have their heads shaved, then they are anointed and provided with brightly colored clothes. The second day, the boys give offerings to the monks. And on the third, they are formally taken to their respective monasteries to begin a new chapter in their lives.
Although rooted in Shinto, the native spiritual system in Japan involving nature and ancestor veneration, the Kanda Festival is also an occasion for Japanese to show the pride they feel in their own history. The festival is held in Tokyo and marked by large parades complete with Shinto shrines, floats, and dancers and marchers dressed in costume.
Virgen del Carmen Festival
The Virgen del Carmen Festival, which takes place in July in Lima and other cities in Peru, is a celebration that mixes indigenous traditions with Christian beliefs. For the festival, a statue of the Virgin Mary is held in procession, surrounded by dancers dressed in ornate costumes. The ceremony is intended to ward off evil and honor the dead.
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