Sankat Mochan Rang Barse Holi

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For the first time, the Sankat Mochan Committee organised Holi – with a special focus on eco-friendliness alongside the usual crowd pleasers. AMIT DUTT reports

We arrived in Australia in 1998. Then Diwali, Holi and other Indian festival celebrations were neat and small affairs catering to 500 or 1000 people. Today, however, with almost 10,000 people attending the Holi event in Melbourne’s west, the Sankat Mochan Festival of Colours at Princess Reserve took me back to the good old days of controlled and clean Holi celebrations.

Holi, which is probably one of the least religious Hindu festivals, celebrates the arrival of spring and is a commemoration various events in Hindu mythology. It’s a festival to cast away the doom and gloom of your environment and embrace all colours of life. Food on offer symbolises this too. Sweets, especially gujiya, a sweet fried dumpling stuffed with spiced nuts and coconut, is the key to the festival.

This event organised for the first time by the Sankat Mochan Committee was supported by Monash Council, so there was an extreme focus on crowd control and clean, organic washable coloured powders. There were also counters for delicious Indian eateries and a good stock of Bollywood music and dance.

While the Dholi got people to practice their bhangra moves, the ongoing stage performances kept even the most amateurs on their feet. The stage performances by a range of voluntary and participating groups ensured no one in the crowd took a breather.

Right from popular Bollywood numbers to folklore to the foot tapping DJ numbers, the music blasted from the speakers and hit the right spot at the feet of those on the floor. The colours splashed in the air and covered the moment in the rainbow which appeared everywhere.

When Indians celebrate, food is not far behind. The special focus of course was on the Holi drink of Thandai, a cold, spiced milk that provides some relief when much of India is experiencing temperatures well past 40C.

Having attended scores of similar events in the past 18 years, which have grown bigger and bigger with the bulging Indian population, finally an event which gives real meaning to the saying, ‘small is beautiful.’ I met friends, families, danced with them and did not get lost in the sea of humanity. This was a first for the Sankat Mochan Committee.

With the popularity of the festival of colours growing and cutting across ethnic lines, it won’t be small for long.