Photo Essay

Street Portraits - Volume VII (Phagwah Parade in Richmond Hill)

Abrack

For this edition of Street Portraits, I jumped in the truck and headed back to my old neighborhood of Richmond Hill, New York to document the Annual Phagwah Parade.

Phagwah, or Holi, is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus around the world. Also known as the festival of Colors, Phagwah is primarily observed by the countries of the Indian subcontinent and countries with large Indic diaspora. The Indo-Caribbean immigrants from Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Suriname brought the celebration to Queens, starting the parade in 1990.

Phagwah is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna, which usually falls in the latter part of February or early March. The parade in Richmond Hill is held on the first Sunday following the full moon.

Folks celebrate by throwing scented powder (abeer) and colored dyes (abrack) on each other, whiles dancing through the streets to tassa drumming and traditional Chowtaal music. Chowtaal is an aspect of the Hindu religion where devotees sing songs to a fast rhythm with the ojhaal (brass percussion) being one of the main musical instruments.

The acts of daubing each other with abrack and throwing abeer is done as a symbolic embrace of spring's abundant colors and saying farewell to winter's drudgery. The festival also commemorate many events that are present in Hindu mythology, notably the story of Holika (the sister of demon-king Hiranyakashipu, who was destroyed for doing her brother's evil tidings) and the Raasilila (divine dance) staged by Lord Krishna for the benefit of his devotees of Vrindavan commonly known as Gopis.

This year's parade was the largest yet with an estimated 25,000 revelers in attendance. What follows are some of my favorite portraits of the day; hope you enjoy. Holi Hai.

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