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Richmond Hill bursts into color with Phagwah fete

Hundreds of revelers descended on Smokey Oval Park Sunday, dousing each other with colorful powders, liquids and dyes in celebration of Phagwah, the Hindu rites of spring.

“The cleaner you are when you come in, the worse you’re gonna get it,” said Dave Persaud of Brooklyn. “We’ve been throwing powders, shaving cream all day. Whatever color you could mix and make.”

“If you don’t want to get dirty, you shouldn’t be here,” said Devina Maharaj of Jamaica.

“Once you’re here, that means you’re ready to celebrate and enjoy the celebration,” said Jennifer Arjun of Jamaica. “It’s like one big family.”

Phagwah, or Holi, is marked by Hindus, Sikhs and others who trace their roots to India. The purples, blues, yellows and other colors symbolize the changing of the season.

Some celebrants used Super Soakers or spray bottles to shoot colored dyes at other participants. Others simply used bottles of colored baby powder.

Eric Miller, 20, of Brooklyn, said he would douse anyone who came within his reach.

“Everybody and anybody, from old to young,” he said.

“We just went around hitting people with colors,” said Alexander Hydar of Yonkers. “It’s a good way to meet girls, too. I’m not gonna lie.”

Sita Decruz, a Guyanese immigrant who lives in Brooklyn, said Phagwah is “a joyful day.”

“It’s a happy occasion. It’s about love, sharing the love,” she said. “It’s all about love and victory and appreciation.”

“You want to know what it’s like, I’ll show you,” said a man celebrating Phagwah with Decruz before dousing a reporter with white powder.

“It’s like our New Year’s,” the man said.

Dharampaul Dukhoi of Long Island said he enjoyed that American whites took part in the celebration with native-born Indians.

“I liked all the colors and everyone getting together,” he said.

For Radharaman Upadhyaya of Queens Village, Sunday was not just about throwing colorful dyes.

He and other members of Sewa Sanga, a Hindu volunteer organization, provided free food and beverages for the hundreds of Phagwah participants.

“We believe the whole world is one family,” he said.

Phagwah is “a festival of colors,” Upadhyaya said. “As you can see, it brings people together. It breaks down the social barriers.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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