Hindus Turn a Midtown Corner into a Festival of Color

Hundreds of people celebrated Holi on Midtown’s Dag Hammarskjold Park. (Photo by Bimina Ranjit)

A corner of Midtown Manhattan was awash in color and Bhangra music as hundreds of Hindus congregated for their yearly Holi celebration, on March 31. The Dag Hammarskjold Park, on West 47th Street, hosted the fourth New York celebration of Holi, the festival of colors for Hindus all around the world, in which people of all cultures splashed their faces and bodies with powder paint.

The event was organized by NYC Bhangra Dance Company & School, and included performances, raffle prizes, Bhangra dance lessons, a photography contest, Henna tattoos, and an art workshop for kids.

“I like how the crowd enjoyed our dance and music,” said Pankaz Gosh, a dancer with NYC Bhangra. “It’s nice to see faces from all parts of world come and celebrate with us.”

The festival attracted people from all over the city. “I waited in line for the longest time to get some colors and someone cut me off right when I was close,” said Nathaniel Kingston, who lives in Sunnyside, Queens. “I think people are thrilled to be part of this amazing color culture, it’s one of a kind and also it’s good to see so many colorful and happy faces.”

Dance performance during New York’s Holi festival. (Photo by Bimina Ranjit)

Happy faces abounded at the Holi festival. (Photo by Bimina Ranjit)

Typically in Hindu countries like Nepal and India, Holi is a national holiday, where friends and family gather and throw colors and water at each other. The festivities officially usher in the beginning of spring, and come from different ancient Hindu stories.

“There are many religious beliefs for the origination of this festival, but what I have been informed was more of the sensuous and romantic story of Lord Krishna and his lover Radha,” said Carol Matthews, an adjunct professor at Dutchess Community College and at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who has a Ph.D. in religious studies.

The party, near Second Avenue, exceeded the expectations of Ricky Imran, who said he brought his diverse New York friends to play Holi with him, since he can’t be with his family back in India. “My friends are loving this and I am sure they would want to come back every year,” he said. “I believe this is better than Holi in India. So many different kinds of people, and so much enthusiasm.”

But at least one participant felt the event was incomplete. Rohit Ekadi, who grew up playing Holi with his friends and family in southern India, said he missed the traditional “Bhang” drink. This beverage made of cannabis is not considered a drug but a traditional sleeping aid and appetizer, and is also part of many traditional ayurvedic medicinal preparations.

“This is fun but still incomplete without water and Bhang. These people do not know the fun of playing Holi with the addition of those two elements,” said Ekadi, who joked, “I hope the organizers get my message.”

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