Large numbers of people in Suriname are descended from Indian immigrants, who brought with them their religion, culture, and holidays. One of the those Hindu holidays, “Holi Phagwa”, has national status in Suriname.
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Phagwa, the Hindu spring festival also called the “festival of colours”, is also a public holiday in nearby Caribbean nations like Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Phagwa is based on Hindu tradition and is connected with the worship of specific Hindu gods, and it is also thought of as symbolising the more generic idea of “the triumph of good over evil”. Many non-Hindus in Suriname can’t resist joining in on the colourful, playful chaos that takes place during Phagwa.
The main traditions involve bespattering people with a red liquid dye called “abeer”, which is supposed to represent the blood of evil king Kiranya who was burnt alive for his crimes against his own people.
On Phagwa in Suriname, there are numerous galas put on, and there are boisterous festivals that are crowded with celebrants. Many also plant a castor oil plant months before Phagwa and then burn the plant when the festive day arrives.
Hindus will gather at temples or at family homes to sing folk songs called “Chowtal”. Chowtal involves two facing rows of singers alternating singing amid drum beats, rhythms, and strong contrasts between subdued and excited song.