Under clear blue skies and bright sunshine, the normally serene grounds of the temple exploded with music, color and dancing as local residents gathered to celebrate Holi on Saturday, March 10.
Each year, to honor the Hindu deity Krishna and welcome spring, men, women and children, young and old, gather to sing, dance, offer prayers and throw brilliantly colored powder at each other.
"In India you'll find four or five or six interpretations of Holi, but our interpretation focuses on the love of Krishna and Radha, who is like the female energy or form of Krishna," said ISKCON Community President Ananda Vrindavan. "Religion and spirituality don't have to be dull and sterile. There's joy. Love is beautiful and it can be beautiful and joyful and happy. We like to show that having a relationship and love for the supreme can be quite a fun thing."
The atmosphere at this year's Potomac Holi festival was lively, and even those new to the celebration reported feeling a sense of happiness and joy.
"It's so exciting to be here, I just love how everyone is so happy and that you can meet total strangers and dance and celebrate with them," said sophomore Lydia of , who brought her classmate Kate and her parents to the festival. "I learned about Holi from Bollywood movies, so I Googled it to figure out where it was happening and we decided to come. I'm so glad we did."
For most, however, Holi is part of a deeply-rooted tradition.
"We come to celebrate because we want to teach our daughters about how things are celebrated in India," said Anu Mehrotra, Potomac resident and mother of two who attended this year's festival. "Holi is wonderful because when most people think of religious festivals, they think things will be very serious, but the this festival is completely different. I remember how fun it was celebrating this when I was young, and want my children to feel the same experiencing their traditions."
Dancing and color throwing were the most visible part of the festival, but personal meditation and prayers offered to the temple's deity of Sri Madan Mohan were quieter expressions that reflected the festival's deeper cultural significance.
"We practice Bhakti Yoga at the temple...the Sanskrit word for yoga means to connect or link up, and that's what we're trying to do. Establish links to supreme soul or essence of the absolute truth, which we call Krishna, and other traditions might call God," said Vrindavan. "Really, the point of this festival is to create experiences of joy in a spiritual context so people can realize that joy is an internal thing, and by connecting this with Krishna and educating people that its important to take time for internal happiness, we hope to deepen their internal spirituality. That's ultimately where our sense of true happiness comes from."
Outside the temple, music played late into the afternoon and long after colors stopped being thrown, groups of brilliantly dyed dancers continued clapping and whirling under the sun, a beautiful first glimpse of spring color.