Festival of fun
Holi is an opportunity to embrace your inner child – by reconnecting with the trusting, fun-loving and perceptive part that may have disappeared under the daily pile of responsibilities, hard work and routine drudgery. If you’ve been to a Holi celebration before, you’ll agree, nothing brings out the inner child in you better than indulging in a bit of muck-up by smearing your friends with coloured powder or dunking them in some water!
Several celebrations of the spring festival of colours were held around our city in March this year, each attracting hoards of revellers and each using the occasion to get their special messages out to the community.
Festivals of South Asia: A call to combat domestic violence
Festivals of South Asia (FOSA) held one of the largest celebrations of Holi this year at the Werribee Racecourse, attracting thousands wanting to celebrate the colours of joy.
“We had an amazing response from the community,” said Hari Yellina, Festivals of South Asia Secretary. “As this was our debut Holi event there was no way to predict the numbers. We ended up hosting a few thousand people from all walks of life.”
President of Festival of South Asia Sarika Parkash Yellina (Hari’s wife), concurred, “The main intent of this Festival was to celebrate our diversity and bring together people from different backgrounds to participate in this colourful festival. We are obviously delighted with the response and success of this event.”
There were many elements that effectively combined to make it work, including non-stop entertainment provided by many popular DJs, dhol players and a large variety of Bollywood dances. Delhi Rocks offered Indian delicacies; children were kept entertained with rides, and vibrant colours were seen flying everywhere.
There were also some religious aspects to this traditional Indian festival with members of ISKCON leading a Ratha Yatra procession.
Volunteers of the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Paty (OFBJP) solemnised the ritual of Holika Dahan. Large numbers of Scientologist followers also attended and volunteered at the event.
A White Ribbon Oath against domestic violence was pledged led by Dr Manjula O’Connor from the Australian Centre For Human Rights and Health (ACHRH).
It was a solemn occasion for Ashok Godara father of domestic violence victim Deepshikha a.k.a Shikha Beniwal who was killed in a tragic murder suicide in December 2014.
“Mr Godara was at the Werribee Racecourse reminding us of the tragic consequences of domestic violence which is murder of the sufferer and the unending pain for those left behind. RIP Deepshikha,” Manjula O’ Connor said.
FOSA committee members wished to include the White Ribbon Oath in the festivities as Holi heralds a new hope. By supporting the White Ribbon campaign the silent majority was encouraged to publicly speak up in protest of violence against women.
The mood changed quickly, however, as lots of happy people, smiles, well wishes, singing and dancing ensued making it one of the merriest colour fests this year.
Bundoora Holi: Dancing in the rain
Celebrating the Indian festival of colours on a large scale is not the norm at any Australian university, however La Trobe University got behind this popular festival and this year, for the first time, Holi was celebrated on the Academic Lawn at the La Trobe campus in Bundoora. This fun festival is for all ages but resonates most with youth and is fast gaining popularity with mainstream and other multicultural communities.
Fusion Entertainment organised the Bundoora Holi making it their fourth consecutive year of celebrating the festival. Families and friends turned up for the event despite the wet weather.
“In India we often play Holi with lots of water so it was almost a god send to get the occasional drizzle here, to add to the fun,” said Jasreen Kaur, one of the participants who attended the festival with a large group of friends. “Thanks to Bollywood or Indian cinemas, dancing at Holi, or dancing in the rain, has become an integral part of the celebrations. We had a blast dancing away to the groovy music.”
There was entertainment galore from Om Music Group and their live band, and Bollywood performances as vibrant as the colours that were flying. Performances from the Nacho Nacho dance group, Natasha Baweja NB dance group and Sur Bollywood dances were received with great applause. Catering to the predominantly youth flavour of the event was some Hip Hop and Rap by Tee Mac and Bongos by David Dekdrum. The variety of entertainment added to the mood and atmosphere as even
Essendon Football Club’s David Zaharakis, an AFL Multicultural Ambassador, in conjunction with Indian Link, soaked in the fun spirit of the festival.
It takes weeks of hard work and coordination to pull off a festival as large as this but it seems to have been worth the effort for the organisers who were pleased with the turn out. According to Gaurav Varma from Fusion Entertainment, “It was a great day and a great crowd. The success of the event would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors, performers and our associates.”
Balam Pichkari, Rang Barse and other mandatory Holi songs kept the crowds dancing through most of the afternoon, thanks to DJ Elvin and DJ Anmol. With faces that looked like graffiti and with clothes smeared with every possible shade of colour, the jubilation was infectious in nature and seemed to take everyone in its sweep. The feedback received post event from many that attended the festivities was that it was a wonderful and memorable experience.
AIII: New venue this year
The intimate setting of the AIII Holi Fair this year, held at Tatterson Park in Keysborough, helped to create the desired fun ambience.
This was AIII’s seventh year of staging the Holi Fair and the first one to be held in a location other than the Sandown Racecourse that was apparently booked out for other internal events.
As a family-friendly event, there were rides for children, plenty of food and beverage options and a variety of stalls including RACV, BUPA, Aussizz, Indya Foods, MBIC and Indian media. The event was sponsored by Victorian Government and supported by the Victorian Multicultural Commission.
AFL Multicultural Ambassador Jimmy Toumpas was on hand at the Indian Link stall and happily posed for photos with fans.
According to the AIII Vice Chairman Yogen Lakshman and Joint Secretary Harjinder Soni, thousands of people visited the fair over the course of the day to enjoy the festivities.
“Despite the initial cloudy weather and the threat of rain we managed a great turnout,” Soni told Indian Link. “The entry to the fair was free and people came from many different suburbs and diverse backgrounds.”
The numbers were predictably not as large as previous years possibly due to several other Holi events that were held on the same day in surrounding areas.
Several dignitaries attended the brief formal part of the event including local MPs and councilors. Member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region and Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Inga Peulich thanked AIII for inviting her to participate in the festival and congratulated the organisers for coming together to showcase the traditions of India and celebrating the achievements of Indians in Australia.
“AIII is one of the pioneers in the celebration of major Indian festivals in Melbourne and we will continue to work towards promoting and nurturing the Indian presence in multicultural Australia by showcasing Indian art, culture, traditions and cuisine through similar events,” said Vernon Da Gama, President of AIII.
A traditional Holika Dahan Puja procession marked the formal beginning of the festival, followed by non-stop Bollywood music provided by DJ Vijay and DJ Anmol. The loud, upbeat music was a constant, keeping the crowd entertained and dancing throughout the day.
The merriment continued through the day as pristine whites soon converted to a kaleidoscope with the soaking of sundry colours.
It was not all song and dance as several stalls vied for attention to promote their products, their audience inevitably distracted by the riotous celebrations all around. Some, to attract business, provided raffle draws, competitions, giveaways and special deals.
As the day progressed groups of people converged to participate in the event – some who had never been to a Holi event before, some regulars, and some, like me, who were waiting for an invitation from their inner child to shed a few inhibitions and revel in some boisterous merrymaking.
“I have never experienced anything as amazing as this before,” said Michelle George, RACV’s Motoring and Mobility Coordinator who facilitated a RACV stall for the first time at the Holi Festival. “From the work perspective this was a great opportunity to connect to an Indian audience and personally my children just loved the opportunity to throw colours and use water sprayers on complete strangers. This certainly will be an unforgettable experience for us.”
Durga Temple: Sharing our customs with the wider community
The Durga Temple Holi celebration at Rockbank was full of colour and excitement – this was a mela with fun for the whole family.
“We had an extensive cultural program organised with different dancers, members of the community, DJs and singers,” one of the event organisers, Gurpreet Verma told Indian Link.
“In the evening, after several hours of live music, singing and dancing, we had the Holika Dahan.”
The Durga Temple Holi had an array of food stalls, staffed by dedicated temple volunteers, with the aim of raising funds for the continuing temple renovations.
Colour stalls and community stalls were hemmed in amongst thousands of people throwing colours at one another and getting into the festival spirit.
Organisers, including President Kulwant Joshi and Secretary Hari Julka, are to be congratulated for an event that involved the whole community, including mainstream Australians.
The Melton City Council Mayor was in attendance, along with several officers from the Victorian Police Force.
“Victoria Police Northern Region team members came to the mela and joined in for the day,” Verma said. “They enjoyed participating in the colour throwing and had fun with everyone!”
Wyndham Holi: Giving back to the community
A new entry to this year’s lineup was the Wyndham Holi organised by the Victorian Cultural Association (VCA). The inaugural event was held on the first day of the month at President’s Park in Wyndham Vale.
Entry was free of cost and people thronged to the venue curious to see what was on offer. The draw card was the presence of actress and TV personality Tania Zaetta and Australian cricketer Nathan Bracken. In association with Indian Link, AFL Multicultural Ambassadors Jimmy Toumpas from the Melbourne Football Club and Lin Jong from the Western Bulldogs also mingled with fans and seemed to happily participate in the revelry.
Chanting the Hare Rama Hare Krishna mantra with fervor, members of the ISKCON temple conducted a traditional Jagannath Rath Yatra procession at the venue. Replicating the world-renowned festival of chariots celebrated in Puri, Orissa, the deities were carried in a colourful procession of chariots as devotees played devotional songs while paying obeisance to the Lord Jagannath.
Most of the day was taken up with smearing colours on each other, singing and dancing to the beats of DJ Vijay and DJ ASA. A live orchestra led by Manish Patel and Group filled in the gaps with their lively music followed by dance performances by several local artists. An interesting addition was the Kabaddi match (a contact sport originated in Ancient India) organised by Singh Sabha Sports Club.
President of VCA Vinayak Kolape said, “Wyndham Holi was held to cater to the wider communities in Melbourne’s West and to showcase our cultural diversity. Events like these are designed to unite the community on a common platform to celebrate rituals and traditions. At VCA we strongly believe that events like these also create an opportunity to support local charity organisations. This year at the Holi festival we raised funds for the Werribee Mercy Hospital.”
He added, “Victorian Cultural Association Inc. (VCA) is a not-for-profit organisation that works together with local council and supporters to share and implement ideas and initiatives to the benefit of our community.”
VCA intends to celebrate Holi on an annual basis and promises to include new and innovative features for all age groups including the chance to meet celebrities from various fields.