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Colors, Bonfire, Sparklers - Holi IDRF Style!

Ranjani Saigal

The festival of colors, "Holi" was celebrated with much gaiety and fanfare on March 30th at the beautiful premises of Sarswathi Mandiram in Epping, NH. It brought back nostalgic memories of Holi in India for the over 600 people gathered there. Young and old were throwing colors at each other! This event certainly established Holi as a time to let your hair down and have fun. The best part was that while one was having such a great time all the guests were actually raising funds for a very good cause!

The evening began with a short cultural program by young children. Presentations were made from Norwood, Shrewsbury and Woburn Balvihaars. The presentations were impressive. Young children recited complex Sanskrit verses without a trace of an accent. The teachers and parents from these institutions had done a tremendous job in putting up the various skits. Children from Eastern Rhythms dance school and Angikam Academy presented dances in Bharatanatyam and folk styles. The Vrindavan Preservation Society sang wonderful folk songs suitable for Holi Celebrations.

The traditional "Holi color throwing" followed the cultural program. "I do not think I have seen such an authentic Indian "Holi" celebration since I left India" said Ms. Pushp Kumar, President of the Uttaranchal Association. As I was speaking to Ms. Kumar, I got squirted with a water gun by a cute little seven year old! A dance party followed the "color throwing". Over 600 people were tapping their feet in the huge parking lot to the Holi favorites "Rang Barase", "Holi Ke Din" and others mixed in with some Daler Mahendi hits.

As the sun went down, a huge bonfire was lit. "We live in confusing times. But remember whatever happens righteousness always wins" said Pandit Ramasamooj as he made offerings to the bonfire. Some people brought sparklers and young children had a lovely time lighting a few. Dinner, sponsored by Milan Restaurant and Banquet Rooms in Shrewsbury, MA was provided at nominal cost. The whole event was run by volunteers whose passion for the event ensured perfect organization and smooth running of a complex event. They raised about $3000! "All we want to do is build a community, serve India while having a great time" said Prashant, an IDRF volunteer. It seemed like a tall order, but I think the volunteers achieved it.

About IDRF - www.idrf.org
IDRF is a well established, all voluntary, non-profit organization based in USA. All contributions to IDRF are tax-exempt. What makes IDRF unique is the fact that the organization has no administrative overhead and thus it channelizes 100% of all contributions for the development of the poor and needy.

About Ekal Vidyalaya - www.ekalvidya.org
The event was a fundraiser organized by the India Development and Relief Fund to raise money for Ekal Vidyalaya. This movement is a unique concept that is bringing non-formal education to the doorstep of a village, where children are offered five years of schooling free. The concept makes use of local resources so that children can not only learn the three R's but also gain a better understanding of important aspects of social, geographical and cultural environment of their region. Utilization of local resources helps cut costs and brings a great return for any donation that people make. These schools are run for as little as a $1 a day! It is heartening to note that this single fundraising could keep 9-10 schools running for a whole year.

About Saraswathi Mandiram
It was appropriate that the event was held at "Saraswathi Madiram" a temple to the Goddess of Learning, Saraswathi. The temple is set in the peaceful and serene surroundings of Epping New Hampshire. A visit to the temple brings a sense of inner peace. Pandit Ramasamooj, a spiritual master from Trinidad, established this institution. "I am a devotee of Goddess Saraswathi. Goal of education should not be to gather information but rather to learn to discriminate. Thus we must have "Vivek" - the power to discriminate. We are on our way to creating a "Vivekananda University" says Pandit Ramasamooj. The temple has some great events happening every week. They have a special Sunday Aradhana, when Swamiji gives his discourse. The temple is worth a visit.

(Photographs - Rahul Kankaria )

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