Holi, India’s festival of colours is celebrated fervently by the Indian diaspora in various countries. In ‘Desh’ the dates for Chota and Bada Holi are as per the Hindu calendar and the celebration sees the execution of certain rituals by the community. The Indian Diaspora in ‘videsh’ do not always have ritualistic practices and Holi is held as per the community’s convenience. This colorful festival falls on Phalgun Purnima, which falls at the end of February or in early March when the triumph of good over evil is celebrated.
Often the celebration takes place over a weekend or coincidentally on a public holiday in the particular foreign country. Once sees and hears of the celebrations of Holi in the United States, the Middle East and in some European cities. The Holi celebrated in countries where Indians went as labourers primarily in the plantation sector has a long history of Holi, particularly in places like Mauritius, South Africa, Fiji, Guyana and some parts of West Indies. Though Indians in large numbers were also in Malaysia, Holi was not celebrated as the majority of the Indians were from South India, brought here from then Madras presidency where Holi was not a festival. Hence Holi celebrations did not take place in Malaysia then.
In Malaysia, it was the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Kuala Lumpur which initiated the Holi celebration as a community and public event about ten years ago. The largest temple in South East Asia and a centre of Hinduism for the North Indian community and was established in 1919.
A sub-committee of the Sanatan Dharam Sabha association that represents the youth group aims to foster brotherhood among the young in the community through religious, cultural, sporting events, workshops and youth camps. The Holi event is self-funded by the SDS youth with kind support from donors, members of the community and personal friends.
This year’s Holi celebration on 26 March had Goldkartz- a popular local Punjabi singing act, now gone international, the One Malaysia Drum Symphony, Dhol Alliance and other performances which included Bollywood dance performances by the SDS youth, performing along with lively Bollywood and international dance tracks from local and international DJs.
This year too, the Mandir through its SDS Youth accomplished an extraordinary feat by stamping their name in The Malaysia Book of Records (MBR) for the ‘Largest Participation in a ‘Holi’ Festival’ with a record of 5,955 participants. The MBR is the official body that recognises record-holders, record-breakers, and record creators in Malaysia.
Thilaga, a fourth generation Tamil in Malaysia said she had attended the Holi festivities as she and her family “have long been watching Bollywood movies and wanted to know if Holi is celebrated as in the Hindi films”. The family even knew songs like ‘Rang Barse’. Another Holi celebration will be held in one of the university campuses in Kuala Lumpur and five office staff in another university, made of Malaysian Tamil, Malyali and Chinese are just bursting with excitement and looking forward to their first Holi celebration ever. One of them, Miss Nagadew said “ My sister is stitching me a white Punjabi suit as I want to play with colours the traditional way’ with a large grin on her face.
Shops also cater to the Holi palate by displaying varieties Indian sweets for a wholesome experience of the festival.
The Nepali migrant population and even a few Bangladeshis join in the celebration at their work places by putting a touch of ‘gulal’ on each other’s cheeks.
For those of us desis who are temporarily based here, it’s a feeling of sentiment and fun and fond memories of Holi celebrations in Desh!