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MA Hindus Celebrate Holi

Falguni Singh

Holi, or “the festival of colors,” has been celebrated across India since ancient times.  The festival celebrates the arrival of spring with all its beautiful colors and vibrant life.  It is also coupled with many stories from the Hindu folklore that play a significant role in the different phases of the celebration.

Organized by NEHTI Youth Cultural and Education program Committee, Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA), and India Development & Relief Fund (IDRF), this celebration was attended by 350-400 people.  The eventful day consisted of prayers conducted by a priest, a bonfire that was lit in the middle of the playing field, and powdered colors distributed and thrown onto friends and family.  It was a joyous occasion marked by the sound of laughter and pure merriment coming from the participants. By applying powdered colors onto friends and family the festival of colors was being celebrated with great enthusiasm.  Bhutanese refugee families that reside in Lynn, Dorchester, and Worcester were invited by the Sri Lakshmi Temple and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America to come and celebrate the Hindu “Holi” day.  

VHP of America has started a project called “Ashraya,” which means shelter, support or a helping hand.  Bhutanese families that have recently immigrated to the USA are welcomed by this organization and are provided assistance assimilating into western culture and gaining self-empowerment.  This is a huge under-taking as there are basic needs that need to be filled, such as providing food, clothing, shelter and transportation.  But aside from that VHP of America and Sri Lakshmi Temple are also assisting the refugees’ spiritual, religious and social needs.  Most importantly VHPA is helping with job placement and funding to make these refugees self-sufficient.

A little history. About 120,000 people from Southern Bhutan were expelled from their country because they were ethnic Nepalese and predominantly Hindus.  They have lived in UN refugee camps for the last twenty years and the US government has offered to resettle about 60,000 of them from UNHCR camps in Nepal to various cities and towns in the USA.  With the help of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America and various other charitable organizations these humble families are able to adapt to their new society.  The US government provided boarding and lodging for the first 6 months and the families have been granted immigration visas and are permitted to work in the United States.  

The Holi function that was celebrated at the temple was a milestone event for the Bhutanese and VHPA organization.  VHPA volunteer coordinators handled detailed logistics to bring many refugee families together to partake in the festivities.  Many volunteers went to Worcester and Dorchester to pickup/drop-off the families.  North Reading School Bus transported a small cluster of 14 Bhutanese families that live in Lynn to the temple. NEHTI, VHPA and IDRF had a wonderful program line-up, starting with a cultural program where the young children sang religious and patriotic songs. This was followed by an informative PowerPoint presentation on the meaning of Holi given by Shaifali Verma (VHPA youth coordinator); the crowd then went outdoors for the puja and bonfire lighting conducted by the priest. Young and old were in jubilation once they started throwing and applying the brilliant colors of Holi onto friends and family.  People danced to hip-hop Indian party music while youngsters chased each other fighting for more colors.  All this merriment would not be complete without a sumptuous vegetarian meal.  VHPA volunteers and the Sri Lakshmi Temple staff prepared the delicious food that was served to all.

The Bhutanese families were extremely happy and in high spirits to be welcomed by the Indian community.  They were touched by the kindness and outpouring given to them and were thankful to be taken care of.  The simple act of kindness from the community meant more to them than words could express.  The Holi festival brings people together by bridging societal gaps and slowing down the hectic pace of life, and on Saturday it did just that for the Bhutanese families and the Hindu community.

For more information on how you can help with the Bhutanese refugees in Massachusetts, please contact Sanjay Kaul 781-330-1691, sanjaykaul@hotmail.com, or visit Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America at www.vhp-america.org.

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