One of my recent novels is set in a world reminiscent of historical India. India is one of my favorite countries, and when it comes to writing I find it's important to experience the culture firsthand as much as possible. Obviously, I don't have the money to fly to India whenever I want. So this past weekend, when the Hindu temple in Spanish Fork held its annual Festival of Colors, I decided to attend.
The Festival of Colors, or Holi, is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and the arrival of spring. It focuses specifically on the god Krishna. In Hindu mythology, a young boy named Prahlada escaped the witch Holika by reciting a prayer, and thus Holika burned to death. During the Festival of Colors, people throw colored, scented powder at one another, listen to traditional music, and dance around bonfires at night. In Spanish Fork, they hold hourly throwings during which the 50,000+ attendees all toss powder into the air. It's an amazing sight - you can watch a video here.
The Spanish Fork Festival of Colors is the largest Holi celebration in the Western Hemisphere. It's also the largest Holi celebration outside predominantly-Hindu countries. It really was an awesome experience, and I got plenty dirty, as you can see in the picture below:
Me and Chris
For those of you who are writing about a culture that's not your own, my suggestion is to find events like this. Look for ways to immerse yourself in that culture. You may not be able to travel outside of the US, but many minority religious/cultural groups hold ceremonies, events, or festivals that are open to the public. Such firsthand experiences will bring authenticity to your writing.