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Holi Festival is coming to Orangeville

March 10, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A celebration of the Holi Festival, albeit muted, is taking place in Orangeville. The Holi Festival is an ancient Hindu celebration. On Friday, March 18 at 9:00 a.m., a Proclamation is to be delivered in the circle outside the Town Hall with a limited number of people attending. There is plenty to know about this upcoming festival.

“It’s so much fun,” said Simran Bhamu, one of the original organizers, “with the colour run, people putting colour on each other. Everyone is so happy and having a good time.

“This is the initiative of EDI [Equity Diversity Inclusion] committee of the Town. I have to really give credit to the town,” she said. “I was just here giving my support. The theme is, like all other things in Hindu culture, that good wins over evil. A time for community, even when everybody can come together. It’s about friendship, love and happy times together.”

Holi Festival’s history comes from pre-Christian mythology about the demon king, Hiranyakashipu, wanting to defeat the god, Lord Vishnu – one of the major Hindu deities. The demon king insisted that all his people should pray to him rather than the gods and they all did except for his own young son, Prahalad who declared his loyalty to Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu’s sister Holika was immune to fire and they plotted for her to clutch Prahalad while sitting atop a mighty bonfire so that he would die in the blaze. However, the story tells that Holika was reduced to ashes while the son came out “unscathed.” Eventually, Vishnu killed Hiranyakashipu too.

The evening before the Holi celebration, part of it is to build a mighty bonfire, symbolic of burning away evil spirits. The story behind the colours goes back to an old love story between Radha and Krishna. Colour is a powerful element of life, our souls and our loves.

Ms. Bhamu related, “People gather around; they sing and dance and exchange sweets – they put colour on each other. This signifies that everybody is happy, the beginning of spring with all the colours.”

She had called us from her family’s home in New Delhi, India, where she has been visiting for the past couple of months. The population of the city of New Delhi, so she mentioned, is the same as the entire population of Canada! 

The hope locally is to bring more festivals and events, to come together with others living here, “opening people’s minds who may think they haven’t observed anything good that comes from coloured people.”

On February 18, for the proclamation at the town hall, there will be some colours and there will be sweets for people who attend. It is going to be broadcasted live on the Town’s YouTube channel with music and participants sharing their thoughts about Holi.

The Upper Grand Board of Education reached out to all the schools to participate in rock painting to share the idea of colours. The rocks will be put outside on school properties on the March 17. The students and staff will be given sweets as tokens of love as well. 

“All these colours, sweets and snacks are all sponsored by businesses in the Orangeville area,” Ms. Bhamu explained. “Indian sweets from Curry Mantra and other sponsors of South Asians living in Dufferin. The new pharmacy on First Street is also sponsoring some items as are the people at Fig Indian Grocers in the Credit Creek Village Mall on First Street.

The play is with organic powder colour. You use your hands and you put it on the forehead of the other person, so we were told. With younger children, you might put it on their cheeks and children also play with water balloons.

“There’s no right or wrong way,” Ms. Bhamu commented. “Whatever you want. There is a lot of food – a lot of music.”

True ambition is the hope in the coming years to go all out with vendors and food items, a really good event of the Holi. The beginning of all this was simply that Simran Bhamu reached out to Lisa Post [co-chair with Joe Andrews of the EDI] to inquire if there’s anything they can do for Holi, back in October.

She praised them, “The tourism [department] were so welcoming. They created this whole plan and I just supported – I just came in handy: there – this is the idea behind the event. It’s always good to have somebody who knows the culture, and our town council at the moment have been doing a fabulous job at inclusion. The town ended up doing their own thing.”

Sharing her opinion with us, “This whole concept of inclusion, we are afraid of the unknown. With events like this, the fear of the unknown will be gone. Definitely there could be some of those people who don’t care to know about such festivals but even they can know somebody from a different culture and they can become an advocate. There is always something to celebrate.”

To follow up, the Citizen had a brief conversation with Joe Andrews, co-chair of EDI who explained, “It’s up to us to guide the town as we embrace the diversity within our community through being introduced to the wonderful members of our community. To have different celebrations through our calendar year.”

The EDI committee will help the South Asia community to have a celebration and to formulate a festival beginning at 9:00 a.m. on March 18. At the time of planning, Covid protocols were still in place and so, they will still be adhering to them by making this primarily a virtual gathering with a small gathering at the town hall. There is an official desire to be cautious. This organized event will allow people to gather, even with the restrictions. 

“People can watch the live presentation  of Holi on line. Community members will be joining us to show ways they will be celebrating their festival, just after 9:00 am. The town’s main web page will have a link to the Town’s YouTube channel.

“We’ll be back into council chambers in May we hope,” he added.

Mr. Andrews’ take on the Holi Festival is he is “absolutely delighted to learn about our wonderful cultures that have become a part of our community. Even the BIA are going to be displaying colours on their windows.”

He wanted to be clear as the last thing is that the EDI wanted to provide some guidance to the South Asian community how to start navigate the different processes to move forward with festivals.

For more information, check the Town website:

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