A Birthday Party for Lord Krishna (or dancing with strangers in Shimla, India)
Note: This is part one of a series that highlights my time in India. I travelled there solo in the summer of 2010. Things have changed a lot, as have I, but here we go…
“Do you like to play dance?” Asked the police officer next to me, before nudging me forward, forward, and then forward again.
“Dance! Dance!” Agreed the smiling faces of men and women. It was warm, joyful. Energetic.
Not knowing what else to do, I danced, flinging my arms and skipping my feet. It was all part of the six day party leading up to Lord Krishna’s birthday.
On Saturday, I made my way to Shimla, a hillside town known as the summer capital of India. I just happened to stumble upon a massive parade and festival celebrating Krishna’s birthday. School children and marching bands paraded through Shimla’s lower streets, winding around in no specific order, circling back and forth, up and down, making every inch one big party.
The festival had every sort of entertainment. Singing troops of older men and women would edge forward, carrying what looked like a gramophone taped on a rusted bicycle. Men stood on each others shoulders, balancing and reaching to break a clay pot dangling from above, showering milk down their chests. Girls waved gold bands. Lights flashed. Neon machines blared past. Drummers drums and horns blared and red powder was flung through the air, right alongside rose petals.
Vendors shoved food into my hands as I walked by: a sweet pancake, rice and dahl, apples, wafer cookies. It was like trick-or-treat on Halloween except everyone was playing. One old woman circled back around to get herself another pancake.
“I’ve seen you already!” Scolded the food-giver.
I kept trying to escape the crowd but never really succeeded. Every now and then someone would ask to take a picture with me.
The festival was hectic and fascinating. I can’t wait for September 2nd, which is Krishna’s actual birthday. Now in Rishikesh, known as the ‘yoga capital of the world,’ the birthday promises to be interesting.