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It’s an afternoon of lively, positive dances and a kaleidoscope of bright pigmentation.

The Hindu Temple Society of North America will present Holi: The Spring Festival of Colors at Queens Museum on Sunday, April 23, at 2 p.m. It’s free and open to all.

Holi is an international, Hindu-based ritual that marks the onset of spring and the triumph of light over darkness. However, this two-hour event will incorporate aspects of Earth Day celebrations, harvest festivals, and other acts expressing gratitude to Mother Earth.

Many women will wear colorful saris and floral necklaces. Fresh flowers and statuettes of Hindu gods will fill the venue. And artists from a variety of nationalities and cultures will dance, sing, chant, play sitars and tablas, distribute sweets, and play harmless pranks on each other.

As part of the festivities, many participants will sprinkle red-dyed water, perfume, and talcum powder on each other as an expression of love based on the tale of a friendly coloring battle between a Hindu god and some cowherds. (Out of respect, youngsters only color the feet of elders.)

Holi occurs annually on the first full moon of the Hindu calendar. Its origins are in northern India and Nepal, where it’s also popular in the non-Hindu communities.

The word “Holi” probably comes from “Holika,” the evil sister of a demon king in Hindu folklore. She allegedly tricked her good nephew, Prahlada, into sitting on a burning pyre with her while she was wearing a protective cloak. The flames grew, generating a gust that blew her cloak onto Prahlada. So Holika burned to death, while Prahlada survived. Townspeople celebrated by spreading ashes from the pyre on their foreheads, a practice that probably evolved into today’s friendly color battles.

Established in 1977, Hindu Temple Society of North America is the oldest Hindu temple in the United States. It’s located on Bowne Street in Flushing.

Top photo: Queens Museum;
Gallery photos: The Hindu Temple Society of North America

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