Hundreds Celebrate Festival with a Spectacle of Color and Delight

The Bedford Holi celebration organized by the South Asian Association of Bedford filled E Field with color at the festival celebrating of love, forgiveness, and harmony. Photo Credit: Jackie Clarkson Photography

Mehul Shah, who is a member of the South Asian Association of Bedford, wanted everyone to appreciate the spirit of the traditional celebration of Holi as it unfolded on the softball outfield next to Town Center under brilliant skies on Sunday afternoon.

“As we indulge in the playful madness of Holi, let’s also take a moment to understand the significance of this festival,” he declared. “Holi is not just about colors, but also about the spirit of love, forgiveness, and harmony,” he declared, adding, “It’s messy, chaotic — and absolutely delightful.”

Bedford’s first celebration of the Indian festival of colors was a multifaceted panoply of laissez-faire fun.

Each attendee received a seven-ounce plastic bag of Bhakti Holi Colors, a fine powder imported from India “for festival purposes only.” The product, according to the package, is made from “non-toxic and skin friendly products such as maize starch, flower petals, and natural colors. This product is good for you while adding to your Holi revelry.” Bhakti offers the powder in 10 colors.

The script called for a group color throw about 15 minutes into the event with a professional photographer strategically positioned for maximum effect. But a lot of kids couldn’t wait, and colorful puffs started springing up, soon carried by the wind in every direction.  

When Shah led the hundreds of participants in a traditional greeting of “Holi hain,” there was an explosion of multiple colors, misting like a ground-level rainbow across the grounds. Shah told the crowd, “I can’t promise that you won’t end up looking like a rainbow exploded on you, or that you won’t find color in the most unexpected places for days to come.”

That’s because the powder started to really fly, sometimes at close range, often at random. Several people – mostly kids – took on other-worldly combinations of hues from head to toe. The powder was dumped directly on friends and family members, wafting in many directions as kids whirled with open packages. A few women dressed in traditional garb – with an array of color that wasn’t part of their outfits when they left home.

The powder was everywhere. So were the smiles.

Holi, an ancient Hindu tradition, has agricultural roots, marking the harvest at the start of spring. Shah explained in an interview before the event that Holi “traditionally is celebrated by applying colors to each other to express the happiness that spring is here.” The other key components are music and dance – “the whole idea of expression of happiness – and food. “At any good festival food has to be there.”

He added that Holi also is also “a time for harmony and forgiveness, and unity, getting people together, a big aspect of happiness.” It also celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Joining Shah’s welcome was Amee Mistry, who told the celebrants, “We have come together as a community, representing different cultures, backgrounds, and traditions, to celebrate this colorful festival of joy and togetherness.”

Photo Credit: Jackie Clarkson Photography

Several celebrants showed up in t-shirts and hats already decorated with colors for the holiday.

Following the color throw, the five-member Bollywood band Kadak Chai launched into its set, including Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu songs, all with a rock beat. This was the band’s debut in Bedford – it formed during the pandemic. The musicians set up on the site of the summer concert series, with Town Center behind them.

On the perimeter were two food vendors – including Bedford’s Holi restaurant, the main sponsor of the celebration. Organizers also set up a holiday backdrop for formal photographs, away from the action.

Shah told the crowd that Bedford Cupcakes donated its colorful selection, selling for $1 apiece, so the committee will turn all proceeds over to the Bedford Food Pantry. He also thanked the Bedford Cultural Council for its financial support and said the association was “overwhelmed with the support we’ve gotten” from town agencies.

Speaking before the celebration, Shah noted that the South Asian Association was known as the Bedford Desi Group until recently. The rebranding reflects the fact that “the Indian community is increasing,” and indeed Holi is “a festival generally celebrated in India but also in surrounding countries.”

Shah told the revelers that his association’s mission is “to create a platform that highlights beauty, richness, and diversity of the South Asian culture in a fun and interesting way.”

Added Mistry, “We strive to organize events and activities that provide opportunities for not just the South Asian community but all diverse communities to come together, celebrate and learn about South Asian traditions, cuisine, music, and dance.” 

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