New York City is known for its diversity and throughout the year, across the five boroughs, various ethnic groups showcase their heritage through their traditional music, fashion, festivals and parades. Holi Hai! held on Saturday, April 30th, celebrated the internationally recognized Hindu festival of colors, also known as Holi.
The dance troupe NYC Bhangra hosted the seventh annual “Holi Hai!” gala in Midtown Manhattan. The Dag Hammarsjold Park in Midtown East burst into rainbows, thanks to the thousands of attendees who came together to immerse themselves in color and culture.
In accordance to the Hindu calendar, timed to the phases of the moon, Holi usually falls in the month of March; however, since “Holi Hai!” is held outdoors, chief organizer Megha Kalia, decided to host it in April, at the onset of the warm weather.
What was once conceived, observed and ritualized in the Indian subcontinent, Holi, has now become an internationally recognized festival. Mainstream artists Coldplay and Beyoncé traveled all the way to the motherland to capture the merrymaking in their latest single, “Hymn for the Weekend.”
But the popularization of this festival across the U.S. occurred years before the video was released. Indian organizations such as the NYC Bhangra, have hosted this splashy event to keep the tradition vividly alive – welcoming the arrival of spring, nurturing the appreciation of life, love, equality and color and eradicating any social and cultural differences.
The festival’s main tradition, visible this past weekend, involves pelting, blowing or smearing fistfuls of rainbow-colored powder on each other. Everyone, regardless of age or ethnic origin, is fair game. Towards the end of the event, revelers resembled luminous kaleidoscopes, survivors of a civil color war.
For seven straight hours, the crowd danced to the pulsating beats of the dhol (double-headed drum) while feasting on authentic Indian food. In addition to the performing arts, “Holi Hai!” featured blockbuster dance performances which gave the audience a glimpse into the aesthetics of Indian culture and tradition.
Although the festival’s roots derive from various mythological connotations, the salient theme of Holi constitutes the triumph of Good over Evil. As a result of its loose religious ties, which may have been due to generations and generations of Indians focusing solely on the idiosyncratic action of throwing of colors, the underlying concept of Holi has become a versatile pretext for celebrating life, thus making it a widely anticipated event even among non-Indians.
Holi Hai! in New York City is an annual soiree. So next year, trade in those drab winter clothes for white and participate in the city’s biggest prismatic festival.
Photos by Poornima Vuppuluri