I was delighted to be invited to be a chief guest at ‘ Rang de Holi’- an event organized as a  holi celebration on March 17th, 2024 at the Thurstan Rugby Grounds in Colombo.

I was excited  because Holi is one of my favorite Indian festivals- it’s a time to revel in fun with color and water and a time of great community bonding with friends and family.

So to get invited to a Holi festival in Colombo, piqued my curiosity, and it also reminded me of the keen anticipation one had in India for this high energy festival.

I visited the ‘ Rang de Holi’ festival Instagram page and the promotional videos with its choice of Hindi music and visual depiction of the colors and water was on point. This could have been any college anywhere in India purely based on the promo videos.

And what a fun event it was- As a chief guest I inaugurated the Holi event by putting my palm in red colored water and then imprinting that palm on a blank white canvas. Then one had to light a lamp and subsequently throw colors in the air to get things going. The students anointed me with a color tikka on my forehead and we got about putting color on everyone’s faces.

The ‘ Rang de Holi’ event was meticulously planned- there was a DJ playing Holi songs in Hindi, there were stalls to play games and win prizes and food stalls aplenty. But the key thing was that colors and water balloons, and water pistols were supplied to all. The result was a high energy display of fun and enjoyment. The over 250 member participants were up and about smearing each other with color and water. In typical Holi style youngsters were running around- some chasing, others being chased, and people were having total fun. There were some who started dancing to the Hindi music much before the evening dance party started which continued into the late evening.

The  Rang de Holi’ event was a Holi with a big difference. This was fun with a purpose. The faculty of the college that organized it encouraged this Holi idea for students under the ‘ transition to work’ course where students are meant to imbibe cultural sensitivities before they embark on their work careers. And the students not only organized every aspect of the show but conceived the idea of a ticketed event, where proceeds from the show ( donations/ sponsorships/ stall bookings/ ticket sales) would go towards providing much needed water to 500 students of lihinigiriya school in Puttalam. Children in this school don’t have access to clean drinking water and the proceeds from the Holi event is to provide a water purification system in this school.

So, all in all this ‘ Rang De Holi’ event was one of a kind. Fun, excitement, and community bonding like an authentic Holi in India but also very purposeful and fulfilling in that it’s meant to help provide funds for a very relevant charitable cause.

The interesting thing regarding ‘ Rang de Holi’ is that it was celebrated exactly one week before Holi is celebrated in India. So without doubt it’s safe to say that Colombo celebrated Holi earlier than any city in India in 2024.

I couldn’t be a happier chief guest.

It also set me thinking about how India and Sri Lanka besides being neighbors also share similar tastes for festivals. Like in India, in Sri Lanka too festivals like Avurudhu are community events with close and involved participation by all members of the family.

In that context- for youngsters in Sri Lanka to celebrate Holi in Colombo, one week ahead of its date in India. And to do it so authentically and purposefully made it at once gratifying and encouraging ( for someone interested in fostering closer bonds between the two countries) as well as inspiring given the added dimension of purpose given by youngsters in Sri Lanka

Perhaps young people in India could take a leaf out of the Sri Lankan book and imbue a sense of purpose in their Holi celebrations all across India.

( Santosh Menon is an Indian businessman in Sri Lanka and can be reached on [email protected])

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