Holi in Birmingham is always bright, beautiful, and vibrant. Thousands of people flock to the Birmingham Museum of Art to view incredible Indian art, watch beautiful performances, and eat some delicious food. Holi began on Friday, March 18th. Holi is often a 2-day celebration.
What is Holi?
Holi marks the arrival of spring and the end of winter. It is to celebrate the new crops and new plants to come with the new season. Holi also celebrates the Hindu god Krishna and the legend of Holika and Prahlad. It is a symbol of the overcoming of evil no matter where—it is the triumph of good over evil.
Holi in India starts with the lighting of bonfires and roasting of many things: namely grains, popcorn, coconut, and more. The next day is entirely about throwing colors. Families will gather around in large crowds and slather color over each other’s faces. The colors can be paint, but people more commonly use dyed cornstarch.
This year, the Birmingham Museum of Art’s Holi celebrated a photographer named Manjari Sharma. The Museum opened Sharma’s Darshan series during the Holi weekend. The Darshan series was meant to encapsulate and reflect the images of a number of Hindu gods and goddesses. On her website, she describes it as a “series of images inviting the viewer to consider a photograph as a means of spiritual engagement.”
Manjari Sharma is an artist, born in Mumbai, who currently lives between LA and NYC. Several museums around the country have honored her, and she is currently displaying 7 of her photograph series on her website. She has experimented with many different elements in her photographs, one of the main elements being water. Sharma has highlighted water as an element in 3 of her current photo series on display, on her website.
BMA also hosted many local Indian dance teachers such as Piyalee Das, Pia Sen, and Sheila Rubin. Every one of these ladies teaches a dance form. They teach dance forms originating from ancient India; forms that have been taught for centuries on end. Their students were sure to emanate as well. We saw talented singing groups as well as people starting off performances with Bhajans meant to ask God to bless the stage before them.
Food at Holi was from a variety of places including Tastings of Hyderabad, Dryft Coffee, and Big Spoon just to name a few. Stationed at the front entrance of the museum, each one served unique food to add to the Holi experience.
Then at 3 p.m., crowds of people swarmed out into the parking lot to start the actual throwing of colors. At a double table stand, people were grabbing packets of colored powder to begin. Once most people had a packet of color, it was haywire. It didn’t matter if you knew the person or not, they felt the obligation to color you with any color they had.
I often heard exchanges of, “Oh that person down there has the color blue,” or “Oh I see you don’t have any green on you, let me help with that.” It brought many people together as a community. Music started playing and it felt straight out of a movie scene. Hundreds of people were crowded together in a large bunch just smearing colored powder on each other’s faces.
This event was made possible by the Birmingham Museum of Arts and the Indian Cultural Society.
Check out the Birmingam Museum of Art and two other fun places to explore in Bham in “3 Things to do on a Birmingham Saturday.”