South Brunswick’s Indian diasporic community is celebrating Holi, the festival of colors

The religious and community event celebrates spring and the triumph of good over evil — with plenty of color.

People dancing and throwing colored powder on each other

People dance and throw colored powder as they celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, in the Encino section of Los Angeles on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

From Camden and Cherry Hill to Trenton and the Jersey Shore, what about life in New Jersey do you want WHYY News to cover? Let us know.

At least 700 people are expected to attend Rang Barse 2024 on Saturday in South Brunswick Township.

The event at Woodlot Park, presented by the Hindu American Society of Central New Jersey, is celebrating Holi, a Hindu spring festival also known as the “Festival of Colors.”

“It celebrates the eternal and divine love of the deities, Radha and Krishna, those are the two Hindu God and Goddess,” said Deep Shukla, society co-founder and president. “Additionally the day signifies the triumph over good over evil.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

That is one narrative. Holi is celebrated in different parts of India and there are different lores surrounding its origin. The holiday also marks the beginning of spring and is an homage to the agricultural cycle, according to Dr. Vijay Satnarine, education director with the Hindu American Foundation.

“That’s the most ancient part of the festival, that then the layer about standing up to a tyrannical person,” said Satnarine, who added there is a third layer which he called “the fun part.”

“The part where there’s friendship, there’s camaraderie, there’s joking, there’s jostling, there is love, all of that features in the divine story.”

While the festival has a religious underpinning, the entire community is invited to experience it. Shukla describes it as “a mini version of National Night Out.” There will be cultural performances, DJs and “color play.”

Indo Caribbeans, Indo Fijians and Indo Mauritians were among the earliest to celebrate Holi in the U.S. But now, like Diwali — the festival of lights — Holi is becoming more mainstream and global.

“It’s a lot more ingrained in their cultural practices because they were taken by the British once emancipation happened,” said Satnarine. “They actually came over to those countries before the modern nation state of India was formed. And so for them Holi was deeply ingrained as part of their cultural and traditional practices.”

One of the biggest celebrations of Holi is in Spanish Fork, Utah. That event similarly includes live performances, DJs and “color play.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal