Holi hungama

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Holi, the festival of colours made a big splash in Melbourne in March. With three well-attended Holi Melas, there was no shortage of fun and frolic over two consecutive weekends. Indian Link was a part of each of these melas, and enjoyed being a part of their colourful celebrations.

Sundown Racecourse Holi Mela

Organised by the Australian Indian Innovation’s Inc (AIII), the fourth annual Holi Mela at Sundown Racecourse on March 4 was an unprecedented success. AIII has been leading the way in promoting India’s national identity in multi-ethnic Australia. In keeping with this spirit, AIIA organised the Holi Mela where people of Indian origin and the wider community enjoyed a first-hand experience of the colour and gaiety that marks this festival.

Over 5000 people attended the event which began at noon with Holi ka dahan, the religious and traditional bonfire that marks the festival. From then on it was a riot of colour and music all the way as attendees smeared each other in a medley of colour or gyrated to funky music by legendary Melbourne DJs. Shiamak’s Dance Group and independent groups of dancers kept the less active entertained with stage performances to Bollywood and bhangra beats. There were rides for children, and of course, an impressive array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food sold at a number of stalls representing various states in India. Indian Link’s stall distributed copies of the publication to an enthusiastic public, while enjoying the festivities that were so reminiscent of celebrations back in the motherland.

It was amusing to see special guests getting as colourful as the most enthusiastic participants, as Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras, representing the Premier of Victoria; Inga Peulich, Member for South-Eastern Metropolitan; Dr Daniel Andrews, Leader of the Opposition in Victoria; Bruce Atkinson, Member of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Eastern Metropolitan Region; and Hon Hong Lim, Member for Clayton join in the fun. Dr S K Behera, Consul General of India for Melbourne also attended the event.

“While a lot of families attend this event, it is really the youngsters that thoroughly enjoy themselves,” Yogen Lakshman, Organiser and Public Officer for the AIII. “Lots of international students come to the mela to get a taste of Holi back home. For them it is like a youth festival with a touch of tradition,” he added. In the future, the AIII looks forward to supporting the community through various similar initiatives that celebrate India’s great cultural and traditional diversity.

SSVT Holi Mela, Carrum Downs

The Holi Mela organized on March 10 by the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs, Victoria was an unprecedented success with over 5000 people attending the festivities. Held in the grounds of the temple from 10am to 4:30pm, visitors and devotees enjoyed playing Holi and attending the holika bonfire which was lit around mid-day. Fourteen stalls enjoyed good custom, selling products like satellite TV, while other religious organisations were also represented. A range of enticing North Indian and Gujarati vegetarian food was also available for sale, with an impressive array of sweet and savoury options. Indian Link’s on-site team distributed about 500 free copies and answered various questions regarding the publication.

Attending the Holi Mela was Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras, representing the Premier of Victoria; Inga Peulich, Member for South-Eastern Metropolitan; Luke Donnellan, Member for Narre Warren North; Judith Graley, Member for Narre Warren South and Hon Hong Lim, Member for Clayton. Cr Brain Cunial, Mayor of Frankston and Cr Amanda Stapelton representing the Mayor City of Casey and the Chairman of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship (OMAC), Victoria were also among the special guests.

“This year marked the 20th annual Holi Mela, and once again, we are very happy that it has been a grand success,” said  Raghu Pendyala

Vice President, Hindu Society of Victoria. “It is an event that people look forward to each year, and the celebrations brings alive a touch of our traditional heritage.”

The Shri Shiva Vishnu temple is looking forward to the Grand Opening of its Cultural Centre on May 5, which will be the only one of its kind in Australia. Details can be found on the temple’s website,hsvshivavishnutemple.org.au

Bundoora Park Holi Mela

On March 11, Bundoora Park exploded into a riot of colour. Held for the first time in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs, about 1200 attendees enjoyed lots of events and after all these strenuous happenings had worn them out, it was time to feast on an enticing array of Indian food to suit all palates. Other stalls included a range of services from banks, insurance companies, and other corporate organisations. Once again Indian Link was among the media stalls present, distributing approximately 500 copies of the publication to attendees.

State Labor MP for Bundoora, Colin Brooks was also present and he had a good reason to be enthusiastic. His fundraising stall raised $400 through the generosity of visitors, including the Consul General of India Dr S K Behera, who also made a contribution.

Organiser Gaurav Verma was please with the turnout saying, “This year we had a bigger and more diverse crowd, and I was very pleased to note that several of the revellers were of non-Indian background.”

It was a heartening sight to watch young children excitedly running around, splashing colour with abandon. Hip-hop, rap and Bollywood performers kept the crowd entertained as well, adding a touch of musical masti to the celebrations.

It was a day of fun for the thousand plus people who attended the Holi Mela, many of whom left reluctantly, but with the promise to return for the next one.