Friday June 22, 2018
Home India The festival ...

The festival of Holi: India & Abroad

0
//
340

There are some festivals, which find their way across the border. And Holi, the festival of colours, is one of them. Celebrated mainly in north India, and now across the country,the festival falls in March,signaling the onset of spring.

Traditionally, a bonfire is lit on Holi eve, signifying the victory of good over evil. Colours, gaiety and lots of fun is the common thread of the festival that is celebrated in different styles across the country.

After a bout of throwing colour,both dry (gulal) and wet (coloured water) at one another, mouthwatering delicacies, mainly gujjias, and drinks in the form of thandai and the heady bhang, bring family and friends together. This may well be one of the main attractions for foreigners,who head for places like Mathura, Varanasi and Jaipur.

Every year, these cities witness a surge in overseas tourist arrivals. Thus it is that the festival has become popular overseas,particularly in countries with a sizeable Indian diaspora.Our neighbour, Pakistan, has even chosen to declare a holiday to mark Holi.

They say, when one is away from home one realises the importance of celebrating festivals. As in India, people settled abroad greet friends and exchange sweets. It may well be a means to socialize but it also serves to bind the people of Indian origin and also to their roots. We take readers on a trip to different countries to see how Holi is celebrated there:

The US

With a large number of Indians residing in the US, Holi is celebrated with much fervor.Indians from major cities and colleges team up with local friends to celebrate the coming of spring. Different societies set up by Indians residing in various cities help organise the festivities. In New York, Holi parades are taken out. People can be seen having fun in these parades, playing with colour.Many a time Bollywood actors join the celebrations that see dance performances, fashion shows and music concerts. There is so much revelry that it becomes quite difficult to imagine that New York is not in India. With the rise in popularity of Holi,celebrations are seen at Las Vegas, Idaho and Arizona,as well as several cities in California,including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento.

The UK

Being the second largest ethnic minority in the UK, Indians settled there do not miss out on the excitement of celebrating Holi. One can particularly sense the zeal in localities with a large number of Indians. For instance,in Leicester,where every Indian festival is celebrated in full spirit, enjoyment reaches its peak during Holi. Like the US, here too, Holi parade is taken out.In the evening people visit their friends and relatives to exchange greetings and sweets. They also apply tilak to mark the traditional joy.

Australia

Celebration of Holi in Australia is the same as in the US and the UK. However, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan takes a lead in terms of organising festivities. Holi is celebrated in the most prominent location,constantly visited by people from every community,such as Darling Harbour (Sydney). The two-day festival at Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour gives visitors to chance to enjoy performances and delicious Indian vegetarian food and craft stalls. A Rath Yatra (the journey of the hand-pulled Chariot of Lord Jagannätha) passes through the busy streets of Sydney, culminating at Darling Harbour and Tumbalong Park.

Pakistan

Due to the common cultural roots, Holi in Pakistan is celebrated in the same way as it is in India. People here follow the same rituals and traditions, such as cleaning one’s house, preparing delicacies like Gujia, Papri and Dahi Badas, meeting up with friends and playing with colours.Local Hindus gather in temples. Much gaiety can be seen in temples located in cities with comparatively greater Hindu population such as Lahore and Sindh region. In Punjab province, men form a pyramid to break a matka, or clay pot, which is hung at a high spot. Onlookers throw water and colour on the human pyramid.

Others

In countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Mauritius and Fiji, where Indian people were taken as indentured labourers during the colonial era, Holi is celebrated with the same fervor as in India. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the actual date. In Guyana, the main celebration in Georgetown is held at the mandir (temple) in Prashad Nagar. In Mauritius,Holi comes close on the heels of Shivaratri

Credits: The Statesman

Next Story

Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

0
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)