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Hindu spring festival planned for Liberty Ave.

The event is expected to draw mostly Guyanan and...

By Jennifer Warren

Throngs of Hindu revelers doused with rose-colored water and caked with white powder will sing, dance and saunter their way down Liberty Avenue Sunday as part of Richmond Hill’s yearly Phagwah celebration.

The event is expected to draw mostly Guyanan and Trinidadian Hindus and will feature music and floats as the parade makes its way from 133rd Street to Smokey Park near Atlantic Avenue, where a cultural show will be performed.

The Hindu holiday of Phagwah (pronounced PAGwa) is the springtime celebration of the month on the Hindu calendar that coincides this year with February and March.

It is described as “a celebration of good over evil, truth over untruth and light over darkness,” says Dayaram Hanuman, who attends the American Sevashram Sangha Hindu temple in Jamaica.

The story of Phagwah revolves around Prince Prahalad, who refused to heed the demand by his father, King Hiranyakashyapu, that the prince worship only him as god. The young prince instead worshiped the supreme god and as he grew he gathered a following who also refused to worship King Hiranyakashyapu.

In an effort to eliminate his son’s influence, the king, with the help of his sister, Holika, decided to kill the prince. Holika was immune to fire. So at the king’s request, Holika was told to take the prince on her lap and sit in a pyre of flames. She did, but when the flames extinguished, it was Holika who had burned and the boy remained.

To honor the story, Hindus around the world use white powder — symbolizing the ashes from Holika’s fire — and throw the powder on one another in a purging ritual, as if to rid themselves of Holika’s and Hiranyakashyapu’s evil.

Once Phagwah revelers are covered in the abeer, or red water and white powder, one person is considered indistinguishable from the next and therefore all are unified on the day of sharing, forgiveness and new beginnings.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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