Phagwah / Holi Introduction:
Every spring, the Sunday after the first full moon of the Hindu calendar, Phagwah literally paints the streets as kids and families "color" one another with dye (abrac) and powder and chase away the winter grays. The spirit--and high-jinks--are like that of Carnival. (Note - no dye or powder allowed on street or sidewalk, just in park.)
The Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill, Queens, is the biggest celebration in North America. If it's a warm day, 25,000 may join the 2013 parade.
The 25th Annual Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill, New York:
- When - Saturday, March 30, 2013
- When - noon
- Where - Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street, Richmond Hill, NY 11419
- Route: Liberty Avenue and 133rd Street > west on Liberty > north on 125th Street > to Smokey Oval Park at 125th Street.
- Festival: Music and other cultural performances at Phil Rizutto Park (Smokey Oval Park) after the parade. The celebration is only allowed on the concrete part of the park, not the newly renovated fields. Celebration at Smokey Oval Park ends at 5 p.m.
Directions to the Phagwah Parade:
- Car: Van Wyck to Liberty Avenue exit or the Atlantic Avenue exit (better). Head west toward Richmond Hill.
- Parking: Try parking on a side street between Liberty and Atlantic, close to Smokey Oval Park, or else on Atlantic. Parking on Liberty is not an option. By noon finding a spot will be very difficult, if not headache inducing.
- Subway: A to Ozone Park-Lefferts Boulevard at Liberty Avenue. Walk east along Liberty.
- Bus: Q8, Q10, Q41, and Q112
What Is Phagwah?:
It's a typical community parade. Floats carry beauty pageant winners, businessmen, and religious and political leaders down Liberty Avenue and over to Smokey Oval Park, where there's a concert.
The difference is the bright red, purple, orange, and green dyes and powders that fill the air and coat the white clothes of revelers.
Phagwah Safety and Color:
The only problem is for those who want to keep their clothes clean. Even if you stand back on the sidewalk, it's common to get dye splattered on your clothes. And if you step into the street, you are fair game for the kids with super-soakers full of purple dye.
Note that dye and powder are not allowed on the streets or sidewalks for this year's parade. They are permitted at Smoky Oval Park and at the formation point.
Official Parade Rules:
- There shall be no alcohol drinking;
- There shall be no super-soaker;
- Powder and dye are restricted to the Smokey Oval Park and formation point;
- Only religious songs (Phagwah Songs and Chowtals) are to be sung;
- Participants should either be in front or at the back of the Floats, and not at the side;
- No political banner is allowed on the Parade route or at the Smokey Oval Park;
- No one must throw any abrac or powder on Police Officers.
For thousands of years in India, Hindus have celebrated Holi as the victory of good over evil, and as the renewal of the agricultural seasons. (Its fall twin in the Hindu year is Diwali, the Festival of Lights.) Local celebrations vary, and always color plays a big role.
- More: About Holi
Phagwah in the Caribbean:
The holiday flourished and gained the name Phagwah. In Guyana and Surinam, Phagwah became an important national holidays, and everyone had the day off from work.
Since the 1970s many Guyanese have emigrated to the United States, especially to Richmond Hill and Jamaica in Queens, and brought the Phagwah tradition to their new home.
More Resources on Phagwah and Holi:
The About Guide to Hinduism has more information on Holi.