Former ICON board members celebrate Holi / Credit: Courtesy of ICON

The trees are in bloom, the birds are chirping and the sun is lingering a little longer in the sky — spring is here. In many parts of India, the arrival of the season marks the celebration of Holi, the sacred Hindu tradition that aligns with the March harvest. It is the second largest celebration in India after Diwali. 

On Saturday, May 19, the Indian Community of Needham (ICON) will host a Holi celebration, or festival of colors as it is known, at Greene’s Field. All residents are invited to participate in the sprinkling of colors.

In Hindu mythology, Holi represents the triumph of good over evil. It is also a time to forgive and lay aside bias. The throwing of colors allows everyone to look the same for a moment and share a common joy. 

When ICON originally formed some five years ago, the leaders of the group began to plan a Holi celebration each year for the Indian community. This year, they wanted to open it up to the broader Needham community not only as a way to celebrate with their neighbors, but also to educate those who may not be familiar with Indian traditions. 

“We wanted to open it up to the broader community and showcase what this festival is and celebrate with everybody,” said Bala Muthukaruppan, ICON social co-chair who has helped plan the celebrations. She said there will be food, music and traditional dancing in addition to the color play. 

Opening up the Holi celebration is one of many steps ICON is taking to create a sense of belonging and understanding within Needham. Earlier in the year the group hosted a workshop for students organized by students and ran a donation drive for the Needham Community Council. 

“One of the biggest goals starting last year was empowering the youth,” said Shalini Jha, ICON president. “(The workshop) was a beautiful success.” She said the most important thing she wants from the event is for people to have fun, especially the children. 

The blending of colors as a representation of blending people is particularly meaningful, especially in today’s culture, said communications co-chair Ravi Talasila. “It’s the true celebration of brotherhood represented in different ways in the entire country,” he said. “The main celebration is throwing colors at each other, or blending people into different colors so you don’t identify one person with one specific color. In the streets of India, colors are even spread on the animals. Everyone partakes.”

Raja Shaikh, who heads community engagement, said helping students become aware of their cultural roots and empowering them to become the face of ICON in the future is important to the Indian community. “We want them to be proud of their roots, but play nicely with the new culture and bring them together.” This year, the group has focused on neurodiversity in order to truly represent everyone. 

Spreading awareness about cultural events is also part of ICON’s goal of participating more actively in Needham. “Look, we are here. We are very approachable, we are friendly people, we would like to help and assist,” said Shaikh. “We want to be recognized as a community that contributes and that enriches the community and the society that they live in whatever way they can.” 

Although Holi is typically celebrated in March, New England’s weather made May a more appealing choice for the outdoor festival. Those interested in participating are encouraged to register. Organic, allergen-free powdered colors will be provided in small bags for people to spread on themselves and others. 

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