29 March 2013
Korowiri Village, Labasa, Fiji
While the world I’m familiar with conducts solemn Good Friday activities celebrating the passion of Christ in quiet contemplation, another world celebrates a new year the Hindi way, with the festival of colours! Happy Holi!
We had a free day on Good Friday (which in Fiji is called Easter Friday) as the staff of WWF all went back to their villages to be with their families and loved ones to have a quiet prayerful non-working day. The streets were empty and thought hmm, what should we do today. We asked our hotel security guard, Satish Chand, if he had seen anyone carrying a big cross walking towards the Catholic church from where he was sitting, as he was facing the main street. He said no. Yogi had been photographing the fish market the day before while I wrote my first blog in Fiji and he had excitedly told me there was Holi happening inside the market where colourful powders were poured on some of the Hindi men and women and it was great fun with the beating of the drums. I missed this event and while asking Satish about it, he said TODAY is the Holi Day! When he saw our keen interest, he called his friends and family in Korowiri Village and arranged for us to be with them on this Holi day celebrated once a year.
A little history we learned from the villagers of Korowiri – they are third and fourth generation Indians and many of them have never been to India. In 1872, the British brought into Fiji a population of workers from India to work in the sugar cane farms. In April 1970, a constitutional conference in London agreed that Fiji should become a fully sovereign and independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations. Fiji became independent on 10 October 1970.
Well what a day this day turned out to be. Holi is the annual Hindu New Year Festival. Satish said it is the day you put the past year behind you, clean your heart and be friends again with your enemies. We reached Korowiri Venau Village by 11am and the community Holi celebration was in full swing.
Our first stop was the Korowiri Temple where we were asked to clean our legs before entering the temple. The men were on one side and women on another. We were told that every fortnight Friday, the gents gathered together to perform their temple celebrations alternating with women the next Friday.
It was incredible! After the a whole performance, we all stepped out into the open and another chanting, drumming and small cymbals started. Then the colours exploded.
This was our very first time to experience such an event and everybody greeted each renewed coloured person with Happy Holi a handshake and an embrace. Then it was off to the next house. The temple is composed of 14 families and all 14 homes were going to be visited. After each round of chanting and performance in the house, a small feast of sweets were passed around. When we arrived at 11am, the community had finished 5 homes. We were invited to the community temple plus 9 houses.
We had Halua made of semolina. Ladu made of powdered dhal. Nimkis made of flour. Boiled peas. Fried peas. Bara made of dhal. Bagia made of dhal. Gulgula made of pumpkin and flour. Murku made of rice flour and powdered dhal. Barfi made of milk powder and sugar. Marshmallows made of sufi, semolina, milk powder & sugar covered with desiccated coconut. Onion Pakola made of powdered dhal, salt baking powder, garlic and chill. And all these sweets were washed down by wonderful Chai. We tried to say goodbye twice after the ninth and twelfth house but were not allowed to leave. We were in for Happy Holi until all houses were visited! Needless to say, we were truly colourful by the time we got back to the hotel in Labasa!