On Wednesday afternoon, the Mitchell branch of the New Haven Public Library in Westville invited city residents to “get messy” for its celebration of Holi — the Indian festival welcoming the arrival of spring.

The family-oriented event’s lineup included storytelling, a dance performance by the Yale Bhangra team and an exchange of the quintessential colorful powders characteristic of the holiday. Roughly 50 community members attended the celebration Wednesday.

“For me, it’s important that my daughter has a sense of what [the holiday] is,” said Anjali Wason, who attended the event with her young daughter. “To be perfectly honest, it’s kind of sad to see how few south Asians have come out today. The library has put out a valiant effort. This is a really nice sampling of what it’s like.”

Wason emphasized that attending the event was important for her daughter’s understanding of South Asian culture.

Holi, or the Festival of Colors, is an annual Hindu festival held on the first full moon day of the twelfth month of the Indian calendar. As a part of the celebration, participants throw colored powder on each other and play with water-filled guns and water balloons. The holiday is known as the “festival of love,” and is observed by South Asians around the world.

The Yale Bhangra team introduced its performance with an explanation of the dance’s origins. Bhangra comes from a harvest festival in the Punjab region of India, featuring instruments designed to mimic the sound of thunder. The South Asian diaspora has modified Bhangra to incorporate Western music in addition to Indian songs.

After the performance, Joshua Mathew ’19 — one of the Bhangra team’s captains — explained that the team does outreach by conducting workshops at local elementary schools, and hosts performances on and off campus. The group’s other captain, Jayashree Khemka ’20, noted that the team is also competitive and travels around the country for dance competitions. At the library event, the team offered an introductory dance lesson to the children and families that attended the event.

Mitchell’s children’s librarian Soma Mitra organized the event with the goal of “exposure to another culture.” Mitra said that it would be a good opportunity for New Haven’s kids learn about how another country celebrates spring. The event is one of the few public celebrations of the holiday in the city.

“I thought the colors would be fun,” Mitra added.

Holi began on March 20 this year.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu