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Hindus rejoice at Richmond Hill’s Phagwah parade

Thousands of revelers lined the streets of Richmond Hill and Smokey Oval Park Sunday, dousing each other with powder and spraying colorful liquid through Super Soakers to mark Phagwah, the Hindu celebration of spring.

“Today is a day of great happiness — no sadness,” said Bronx resident Steve Singh, who attended the Phagwah parade that made its way down Liberty Avenue until it reached Smokey Oval.

About a dozen floats blasting Indian music traveled along the parade route, where people on the floats sang and shot confetti through air canisters into the crowd.

Some residents watched from their stoops, holding up camcorders to catch the action.

Prakash Persaud, one of the original organizers of the parade when it was started 20 years ago, thanked the city for allowing Hindus to celebrate the holiday.

“For 20 years, we’ve been able to maintain our culture in this community,” he said.

Phagwah, or Holi, is an Indian holiday that commemorates the start of spring. The tradition of throwing powder and colorful liquid on participants signifies blooming flowers and other signs of the new season.

Joyce Mangal, an Ozone Park resident and Guyanese immigrant, took off from work to join the festivities.

“It’s our holiday. It’s our new year,” she said. “All the evil — go away and I hope we bless our country,” she said. “I hope we bring a lot of happiness for our economy. I’m praying for the country.”

Glenn Shivamber, a 10−year−old Astoria resident, got into the Phagwah spirit by applying red dye to his white Maltese, Ling−Ling.

“I like to think of the dog as part of the family,” he said.

As the parade ended in Smokey Oval, participants flocked to the park and doused each other with red, fuscia, neon green and blue powder. One group of youngsters carrying Super Soakers squirted purple liquid onto a friend’s car.

“When you go to the park, that’s when you get all messed up,” said one reveler.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.

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