While rainbows waved in Washington DC at the start of the gay marriage Supreme Court hearings this week, rainbows of a different sort have been streaking across India, Pakistan, Singapore, and other countries to mark the Holi, the festival of colors. The Hindu tradition celebrates the end of Winter and start of Spring with devotees throwing bright multicolored powder, known as gulal, at each other. Similar to Mardi Gras, social restrictions are loosened during the holiday, meaning Hindus from all classes and both sexes join in the events together. Holi day takes place on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna, which this year was March 27. Click through to find out more about the tradition and see pictures of this year's vibrant Holi celebrations!
Need something to look forward to after the holiday rush? Then mark your calendars for Feb. 10, 2013, when new kids' line Rayil will begin shipping its beautiful, Indian-inspired wares (now available for preorder). The line is a collaboration between Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Aruna Hatti (the founder of Gnaana, a company that works to connect kids with the Indian culture) and Moutushi Sarkar, a fashion designer based in New Delhi who has worked for Urban Outfitters, Esprit, and Miss Selfridge. Hatti was inspired to create the line by memories of her own mother's beautiful saris and India's rich fabric history.
Each season, Rayil will showcase a selection of India's 300-plus varieties of cotton and silk in a range of kid-friendly but beautifully and intricately constructed tunics, dresses, pants, scarves, and more. For its debut Spring 2013 collection, expect to see pieces made from Benarasi silk from North India, Chanderi silk from Central India, and cotton Khadi, a fabric made popular by Gandhi. While the fabric history is impressive, the designs are even more so. Keep clicking to check out some of our favorites, and take a journey to Rayil's India!
Today people in India mark Holi, also known as the Festival of Spring or the Festival of Colors. The vibrant Hindu tradition is celebrated at the end of Winter, on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna — which is today! Similar to Mardi Gras, during Holi social restrictions are loosened. In India, Hindus from all classes and both sexes celebrate together, and people are expected to act a little wild, throwing colorful dust on each other to mark the end of a cold and dark Winter. See pictures from this year's celebration now.
Decked out in their brightly colored Punjabi frocks, Indian college girls perform a traditional "giddha" dance to celebrate the Teej festival. Hindu women take part in the three-day celebrations surrounding this fasting festival, which ushers in the rainy season and is dedicated to the goddess Parvati. See more photos of the girls celebrating the festival with singing and dancing now!
An Indian woman arranges brightly colored floral garlands made for wedding decor at a workshop with Gramshree, an organization that supports local artisans and their traditional crafts. By working with local women, Gramshree's mission is to help foster sustainable economic and social growth in India's rural, low-income, and slum areas. See more pictures of the Indian women working on quilts, necklaces, and other cultural crafts.
Corruption is rampant in the upper echelons of India, ranging from the government to corporations. It's not too surprising because India is a country where it's common to bribe people to get things done. Although petty bribery is said to have lessened since 1991, says The Washington Post, it still frequently occurs.
Bribing seems to be quite complex since it isn't really legal. How do you go about paying someone off if there are no set standards to follow? The website IPaidaBribe.com attempts to answer all lingering bribery questions for those living in India. For example, to get a rough estimate of how much to bribe, visitors will see how much other people paid in instances like bribing off a police officer for not having a license or getting your kid into college. However, readers need to keep in mind that the content is all user generated, which means it isn't very reliable.
It's not as dubious as it sounds — the site also encourages you to write about experiences when you didn't have to bribe. I think IPaidaBribe.com revolves around the idea of making bribery transparent, and it's not really a how-to website for slipping people cash under the table.
After going through some comments and reading about how one user had to bribe a police officer to clear his father's name after a false charge of theft, I feel pretty lucky that bribery isn't part of our culture here in the US.
With new census data, India is once again under scrutiny for its unbalanced sex ratio. There are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys (under age 6), the lowest girl to boy ratio since 1947. This is a startling statistic when you consider the global average is 1,050 girls for every 1,000 boys, and there are countries like Latvia with a shortage of men. One way India has tried to remedy this is with stricter enforcement on abortions of female fetuses — according to a 2006 study there are an estimated half a million female fetuses aborted each year — but it doesn't seem to have made a dent in the stats.
If you're wondering why there are more boys than girls in India, it comes down to some of these reasons:
- Married Indian women are pressured to produce male heirs.
- Men are viewed as the breadwinners and family leaders.
- Girls require pricey dowries to be married (and most likely an extravagant wedding).
- Cheap and easily accessible ultrasounds make finding out the sex of the fetus easy, leading to abortions of females.
- Some wealthy Indians believe their status gives them the right to choose the sex of their children.
This cultural mindset, devaluing human life based on sex, has led to Indian girls being neglected and even killed. And with the help of modern technology, it's a scary path for the country. This may be a wake-up call for government officials to get more involved, but I really think unless there are some drastic changes within the culture, and possibly a rethinking of traditions like dowries, I don't know if a shift is possible. What do you think?
Nobody welcomes Spring like Hindus. Much like Mardi Gras, Holi, the Spring festival of colors, celebrates mischief and merrymaking. But I'm going to wager it's the only religious festival that involves paintball-like rituals. Of course, it's not paint, but colored powdered and water. The tradition of throwing and smearing it on others dates back to the seventh century, and it's celebrated most jovially in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Yogis from 36 countries kicked off the International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, India, with over 300 people performing the ancient exercise together. Not enough to beat the 10,000 yogis who practiced in Central Park last Summer, but yoga isn't about competition, right? It's about judgment.
If you think the American wedding-industrial complex is out of control, consider India's. In the midst of rising food prices, some say 15 percent of the country's food grains are being wasted at over-the-top nuptials. As its growing middle class feasts on extravagant, yet traditional, wedding banquets, India's poor struggle to eat enough thanks to rising food costs.
The country's Food and Consumer Affairs Minister believes the price of food is rising partially due to the fact that so much food is wasted at luxurious weddings, so now the government is considering a plan to regulate marital celebrations. India's policy would take cues from Afghanistan, where the government is also cracking down on super-sized weddings.
It's hard to imagine wedding guest lists to be of national interest, but in Afghanistan lawmakers want to limit weddings to 300 guests and require a $4.50 per head maximum. In Afghanistan, the concern is not about wasted food, but rather for young grooms who are going into debilitating debt thanks to societal pressure to throw an impressive wedding celebration. In a country where the annual income is only a few hundred dollars, the average wedding costs around $20,000 and grooms are expected to invite 600 people. While it might not be realistic, elopement sounds like an appealing option to me.