A celebration of spring

Massive Indian festival of colors planned for Exchange Place

Although a few events celebrating the Indian community’s spring festival of colors known as Holi have already taken place in Hudson County, these will likely pale in comparison to the celebration scheduled for Exchange Place on April 29 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
In the past the festival was held in the Hamilton Park area, but last year it was relocated to Exchange Place and drew thousands of participants.
Organized by the nonprofit Surati for Performing Arts, the festival is the brain child of Founder and Artistic Director Rimli Roy, who wanted to bring to the communities in the U.S the spirit of Holi – taken from the Indian Festival of Colors.
“This is our ninth year doing this,” Roy said, “although we were incorporated in 2002 and received our nonprofit status in 2010.”
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“We want people to come out and this is an outdoor event.” – Rimli Roy
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Surati hopes to celebrate and spread the message of love, peace, and universality through a showcase of the performing and visual arts, community interaction, and participation. The Surati professional touring team also performs at this festival, free for everyone to attend.
While Holi has religious significance to a number of groups such as the Hindus, the event in Jersey City is designed to highlight culture and celebrate the arrival of spring. People from different ethnic backgrounds participate and perform at this festival and community leaders show their support by attending.
The festival also receives support from Jersey City Cultural Affairs and The Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
Held on the Jersey City waterfront in Exchange Place, the festival has been advertised on the NJ Transit and PATH trains and is currently among the most popular Holi festivals in the tri state area, Roy said.
“We want people to have a good time and to become aware of a different culture,” she said.
As is traditional, the event includes throwing colored power at each other, and sampling various ethnic dishes. Dancing won’t be exclusive to the performers and in the past many participants dance to live music.

Art to celebrate the onset of spring

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The event is celebrated in many places in India and generally has a number of ritualistic elements, including burning an evil figure in effigy, although this festival is more about art forms than religion.
“Holi for us is a global festival of colors symbolizing diversity, unity, universal love and friendship,” Roy said.
The festival includes family friendly activities, live dance, musical and theater performances, color playing, educational workshops, DJ and henna in addition to a cash bar and local food vendors.
“Our team of performers, volunteers, and staff have been working very hard preparing for this festival and are excited to be a part of it,” Roy said.
Roy said although the traditional holiday is at the end of March, this celebration was put off a month to assure warmer weather.
“We want people to come out, and this is an outdoor event,” she said.
In the past, a number of dignitaries have attended the event, including the Indian Ambassador based in New York, and many state and local officials, which will likely be the case this year as well.
As in past years, the event will include visual artists, musicians and dancers along with people from the community. Children will be performing song and dances related to Holi. Local artists will also perform and there will be educational elements as well.
She estimates this year will likely bring out 5,000 families
“We moved the festival to Exchange Place in 2014,” she said. “We were in Hamilton Park for about three years from 2011 to 2013.”
Surati has performed locally and around the world, and was part of a Diwali Festival in Hoboken several years ago.
Surati is mainly a performing arts organization, and the festivals were originally a way of showcasing artistic talent and multi-cultural diversity in the region. But the festivals began to become more and more popular, and so this year is expected to be larger than ever.
Those who have never attended a Holi celebration should be forewarned happy Holi celebrants will drape you – and your clothes – in colored chalk.
The chalk that will be used for the event will be organic and will wash out of clothing, eventually.
Traditionally people wear white for Holi, and so attendees might think to do so as well.
For more information about the event go to http://www.suratiinc.com/
Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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