A sunny day and 45-degree weather set the tone for the Hindu spring festival known as Phagwah celebrated by a crowd of more than 200 outside the Shri Ram Temple at North Brandywine and Becker Street Sunday afternoon.
For Chandni Kuppan, it meant being covered in powder, something the 15-year-old Schenectady resident said marks a time she looks forward to every year.
“You just play with colorful water and powder and stuff and have fun,” she said.
A Schenectady married couple who gave their first names as Tara and Vijay said the colors signify the bloom of spring, something they are happy is on its way. “We’ve been confined for all this time so we’re happy to be outside and celebrating all of the bright colors,” Vijay said.
Members of various Hindu congregations sang songs, passed out bags filled with sweets and greeted one another with pattings of powder. Some even had water guns filled with reddish liquids, squirting unsuspecting revelers as they walked by or had their back turned.
The spring season carries spiritual significance to Hindus, according to Pandit Jai Masir of Schenectady Hindu Temple.
“How spring develops is the same way humans should develop spiritually as well. The powder and the color signifies the color in nature, like the flowers that are blue and green,” Masir said.
He also explained that the festival symbolizes developing one’s soul by moving away from sin’s pleasure and becoming more spiritual. “God manifests himself in the spring.”
Phagwah gatherings in New York City are said to be the some of the largest celebrations of the spring festival outside of India, the place of the holiday’s origin, where it is referred to as Holi, named after the Hindu demoness Holika.
The celebration of Phagwah is popular among members of the Guyanese community and Indo-Carribbean cultures.
According to researchers with Columbia and Barnard College, the festival, which is often celebrated with parades and street activities, also symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and fertility in addition to celebrating the transition from winter to spring.