10 years ago, an event management company called IN Group brought one of India’s most early traditions to New York City, sharing a piece of its culture through bright and beautiful colors. Each year, the festival of Holi welcomes the coming of spring, commemorates the Hindu pantheon, and celebrates both love and peace. The holiday has been romanticized in several Bollywood films including Silsila and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, but the holiday has a rich religious history.
Holi is said to have been celebrated as early as the 4th century, when evidence of special ceremonies were found in ancient poetry, as well as in 7th century plays. Though some of its traditional rituals have changed over time, the essence of the occasion still remains within those who observe Holi today—not only in India, but in many other cities around the world, including New York.
As mentioned earlier, Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, allows us to retrace Indian culture all the way back to the stories of Hindu deities. Holi breaks up into two parts: Holika Dahan and Rangwali Holi. The length of days celebrated varies in different regions, however. Some parts of India celebrate Holi for as long as 16 days. Holika Dahan kicks off the evening of the full moon in early March, when a large bonfire is torched. The bonfire symbolizes the victory of good defeating evil, just as the God Vishnu had burned the demoness Holika to death.
Rangwali Holi then begins the morning following Holika Dahan. It is on this day that everyone gathers around in public spaces to throw colorful powders and water at one another. The powders are called gulal, and are made with natural ingredients to be used safely during special rituals such as Holi. The custom of throwing colors at loved ones comes from the legend of Lord Krishna’s love for Radha. According to the story, Lord Krishna acknowledged the different skin colors that separated him and Radha. So taking his mother’s advice, Lord Krishna playfully painted Radha’s face so that they would match. This is why Holi brings a fresh start to social relationships. Lord Krishna’s followers today continue to imitate this renewal of love, unity, peace, and community every year on Holi.
For hundreds of years Holi was a holiday only celebrated in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. But now Holi can be seen celebrated in other parts of the world like New York City. It has inspired races around the area called “color runs” and thanks to IN Group, even people outside our Indian community can rejoice with us here in America. Ten years ago, IN Group launched Rang Barse, an annual event bringing people together to celebrate Holi. Every year they share the Indian culture through food, music, dance, colorful gulal—and it all takes place on a ship! How awesome is that?!
Andrew O’ Brien vouches for IN Group after attending one of their Holi events, “There is something for everyone at the Holi event: great views, great food, great music, great dancing, and great color. I was also impressed with the friendly and professional staff—it was great to see so much passion pour into this event that entertained so many people. I didn’t want it to end, and I’m already counting down the days until next year’s festival of color!” This epic cruise Holi celebration is one you absolutely cannot miss.
This year, the ship sets sail at 12pm on March 25th at Pier 40 in Hudson River Park, but be sure to purchase tickets now before they’re all sold out! Tickets are available right here.