MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — After a two-year break, the Festival of Colors returns this fall at Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold in Moundsville, West Virginia.
The Festival of Colors is inspired by the Indian cultural festival of Holi, which has been practiced for thousands of years, according to Anuradha Imseng, communications director and festival coordinator at New Vrindaban, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Temple in Moundsville.
The festival has been a tradition for New Vrindaban for the past nine years and celebrates the coming of spring and the emerging of colors after a long winter. The celebration includes dancing, vendors, Indian street food, music and “color throwing.”
“The festival of color actually celebrates the world or nature coming out of a darkness into the light, and so all of the colors that we throw on each other represent all of the colors that are emerging in the spring,” Imseng said.
According to Imseng, the spring observance is held in the fall of each year because the spring months are still too cold in North America for festivities, while the beginning of fall provides the perfect balance.
Imseng said the festival is meant for everyone, from all cultural, ethnic backgrounds and ages to come together in harmony.
“For me, my favorite part is when people start getting covered by so many colors that you don’t even recognize people … you don’t recognize if people are in white bodies, African American bodies, East Asian bodies, Chinese or Russian. For me, that is just so amazing, when everyone looks the same.”
She said the practice of throwing colors at the festival forces people to see each other with love first, without judging one another based on their looks.
Imseng said the festival is finally returning, two years since the start of the pandemic, as the temple and the Palace of Gold are also opening back up to the public.
The Palace of Gold is New Vrindaban’s “centerpiece,” which represents a sense of peace and history.
“It’s 100% volunteer effort. It was a complete labor of love that was built in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s also exquisite. It’s surrounded by rose gardens and lotus ponds, and there’s such incredible beauty,” she said. “For us to celebrate this festival, we chose the most beautiful place.”
According to Imseng, the festival was made alcohol-free and smoking-free so family and friends of all ages can come together at an outdoor festival in a safe and wholesome environment.
“It’s such a happy festival. You go around and you’re throwing colors. … You have a color countdown and then everyone throws it up into the air, and then you go around throwing it on each other as well, and you just can’t help but smile and laugh.”
Imseng said the festival usually attracts around 3,500 to 4,000 people throughout the day, as there is always something for everyone.“The kids will have fun because it’s amazing to throw colors and run around. The teenagers are dancing to their heart’s desire. The older people are walking around and eating, having a little bit of fun and just relaxing on the grass.”
This year, beyond the vendors and music, there will be mantra meditation, hair-wreath-making from flowers and palm readings. The festival will also showcase a popular Indian street food called “dosas,” which is a paper-thin crepe made from fermented batter and full of different foods such as spicy potato curry, cheese, tangy tamarind sauce and coconut sauce.
The festival will also feature several different performers: Namrock Band, inspired by George Harrison and Sting; Malini Taneja, who is trained in Indian classical and folk dance styles; and Jai Krishma & the Amanda Groove, the “original Color Festival Band” that started playing at festivals in Utah in the early 1990s.
Guests will also be able to explore the Palace’s rose garden and pond, swan lakes and hiking trails or visit with the peacocks and cows, according to a news release.
Imseng thought back to the first time she experienced the festival.“This festival is called the ‘world’s happiest festival.’ I have never felt so happy before. It was just disarming; it was absolutely the most disarming experience I had. It made me feel like a child again, and you children experience such uninhibited joy.”
The gates to the palace will open for the festival at 3759 McCreary’s Ridge Road in Moundsville on Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. The festival will last from noon to 6 p.m. with color throws every hour.
The regular admission package for one person includes two bags of colored powder for $10 online or $15 on-site. The full admission package includes one admission, three bags of colored powder, a T-shirt and a thali lunch.
For more information about ticket sales or booking vendor booths, visit www.festivalofcolors.us.