Nationality: Indian, American
Residence: Miami, Fl
Date of Performance/Collection: March 30th, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi
Continued from the prior interview. Collected from 20 year old female. Indian, raised Hindu. Here she talks about the festival of Holi, as well as the importance of color and how that is demonstrated at weddings and in traditional garb.
Informant: In the spring we celebrate Holi, h-o-l-i. That is when everyone throws colors at eachother . That is for a couple of reasons. This one is hard because I don’t know the whole story about it, I just know the general gist. There is a demonness, like a bad guy who is a woman. And her name is holika, h-o-l-i-k-a. That’s where the name comes from. And I am pretty sure she was evil and somehow either she just died in a fire or someone killed her using fire, but because she finally died, we all celebrate holi as we all are hapypy becuasse spring came out of that. So holi is also the celebration of the start of spring. That is why you throw colors and stuff because spring… colors… happy. So when you celebrate holi, everyone has a bunch of colored powder and a bunch of water and you just kind of throw them at eachother and you say happy holi. It is also a happy time. I don’t think… maybe it is just we never celebrated them… but we don’t have any depressing holidays. You know how like Jewish people have Yom Kippur and stuff like that. We don’t really have that because there is no like, in Hinduism there’s not really like in Christianity and Judiaism where hthey have sins and atonement and all that crap. Hinduism, which is really why I like it, it is not about doing bad things and making up for them, it is more just about positive ways to live your life. So that is why they are all around central tennents like karma… doing good things comes around. That is a huge thing for Hinduism. There are a lot of other stories. There are books. The ramayan is all about rama, but there are a lot of gods in Hinduism. There is another book that is about a lot of them. It is called the mahabaharta. That is the story of ginesh, who is our elephant god. There are a lot of stories in it, but one of the stories that is the most important is talking about ginesh and how he is with his parents and basically the reason why in Hinduism your parents are so important is because someone told ginesh “circle around your world twice.” And what he did was walk around his parents twice because your parents are supposed to be your world. There are just a lot of loyalty stories like that. There is another story, that is called the gita, I think that is g-i-t-a. bhavagad gita. People chant that.
Me: what do you mean they chant it?
Informant: there are a lot of verses to it and sometimes when you pray, some people have whole chapters memorized and they will say them. But that is a very long story. That story is about a normal human guy named arjun. He is in a war. It is a war between 2 families. He is on one side and all of his brothers are on the other side. And he doesn’t know whether he should or shouldn’t fight against his family. He doesn’t know what to do. So he is visited by a god named krishna, who is one of the gods that is always depicted as blue. And the god coaches him and talks him through what he should do. And that is basically the whole gita. It is another story about loyalty and karma. Those are the main things of Hinduism which is again why I like it. It is really not an intrusive religion. It is very spiritual, like these are some good things that you should keep with you as you live your life. It is a pretty chill religion.
Me: Where did you learn all of this?
Informant: Sunday School. When I started to go to Sunday school in kindergarden, it was held out of a temple because it was very few people. But then it expanded and all of these indian people came out of no where. Then there was like hundreds of kids so we started having it at an actual elementary school because we needed to have classrooms. It totally expanded… because you know indian people run the world. It got crazy. We had a website, they published a text book for us. We got sweatpants and sweatshirts. It went crazy. There are a lot of kids who already know everything because their parents teach it to them, obviously my parents know it too. My grandparents reallyyyyy know this stucf because older generations know it more. My parents wanted me to go to Sunday school because they wanted me to make some indian friends. It wasn’t really about learning hindi. My Sunday school we had language class and we had culture class. The culture class was where we learned all of this religious stuff. Or culture stuff. We talked about the differences between americans and Indians and all that kind of stuff. And hindi class, like language class, is specifically where you just learn hinidi or gidrathi. Hinidi is the language my mom’s side of the family speaks and gidrathi is the langage my dad’s side of the family speaks. They’re from 2 different parts of india. We just learned hindi because I think hindi is the national language of india so my parents were just like, ehh. My mom is very fluent in hindi, she is a hindi teacher so they were like, just learn hindi. So that is what we learned. That is all hindu stuff. As far as indian cultural stuff goes… but then again at the same time, if we are going to talk about weddings as being an indian thing. At the same time, there are a lot of different religions within India. They all have different wedding. Muslim weddings are way different than hindu weddings. And so I guess this is still hindu, but the whole idea is like, everything is still really loud and fun and colorful. Brides wear red, you know that. They always wear a sari. We put… in English it is henna… in hindi it is mehndi. I wish I knew the significance of it. I honestly think it is just a really beautiful art form. I am sure there is a story or a reason why we put it on, but I think it is just another way to make you look really beautiful. It goes on your hands, your feet, sometimes up your arm to your elbow at least. So the bride gets the most intricate mendhi, and everyone else in the bridal party gets both of their hands done. They make weddings really colorful because it is such a happy event. White is actually a sad color. So at funerals, when we have them, everyone wears white. No one wears black. Black is never worn to anything. And also, we don’t really have funerals. People don’t really get buried. We have cremations. Hindus believe in reincarnation. So if you are burned than your ashes go up and you can come back as something nice if you did good things in your life.
Me: Do you know why white is sad? Because that is the opposite of American culture
Nayna: I think it is because how people see white as pure and clean, that is our thing. So white is pure and cleansing so you wear that just to celebrate because when you creamate someone that is their purest form. You are burning them. I think that is why white is a nice color like that. Because black is just like never touched. We never wear black to anything. I don’t think white is really a sad color actually, it is really just a very full circle, ending color. Everything else, happy events, everything is always colorful. Weddings are always super colorful. Colors are hugely symbolic in the hindu culture. Holi is huge. You make these things called remgolis and they are basically big pieces of art and they are all different shapes and you color them in with the colored powder. Color is huge. Like indian women wear bindis on their foreheads when they wear their indian clothes. But also when religious ceremonies happen, you put a tikka on your head, but you use red powder and make a dash. That’s religious. Bindis are more for fun, to be pretty. More art and decoration for your body. There is a lot of hindu things. Boys, when they turn 11, 12, 13 or 16, some teenage year, they have something called a thread ceremony and only boys have it. It is like a right of passage, becoming an adult thing. It is a lot of prayers. You get threads tied around you as a bracelet and you keep it on for a while. We actually use a lot of thread in Hinduism. I think temples have what they think is holy thread. It is really just normal red thread. A little prettier. There is some red, some gold. We do a lot with thread. Another thing we do is, it is called rakshabandan. It is a brother sister day. Sisters tie a rakhi, it is like a bracelet, on their brother. It can just be a piece of red yarn or a thread. My sister and I like to make it fun, so we make a bracelet for our brother. So basically that is supposed to be protection for him. For all bad things that could come his way. So raksha means protection. Bandan means to tie. So literally tieing protection on your brother. And then your brother gives you like a present or something on that day. You feed him something sweet. You tie your rhaki, and he gives you a present. So it is like sisters protect brothers, brothers protect sisters, something like that. Oh by the way, I think I was supposed to tell you that like the bindi. The significance is that it is supposed to be like a third eye. So it is supposed to ward off evil. It is supposed to look over you. Red is really important. It used to be in the olden days that married women would put the same red power that you put here [touching space between eyes], they used to put it in their parts. In the part of their hairs. That is supposed to signify that you are married.
Me: Do you know why the part of their hair?
Informant: I guess it just so that you do not have to wear it on your forehead. It is very old. People do not walk around with that anymore. It used to be. Married women also tend to wear a red bindi. And widowed women wear a black bindi. My gradmother, when her husband passed ago, way before I was born, she always wears a black bindi on her forehead. Sorry… I keep talking!
Analysis: The informant does a lot of subtle analyzing of what she is saying as she goes. She clearly takes a lot of traditions and myths with a grain of salt. Rather than actually believe xyz, she believes in the moral behind it. She already understands that reason why there are a lot of traditions and stories which makes my analysis much less needed.