Views about the Phagwah festival

David ArmoganDavid Armogan, Region Six chairman: ‘I find that years ago the celebration was much bigger than it is today. We used to have one week of celebration, moving from one home to another. People used to invite us to sing chowtal and they would prepare meals for us. It is still happening but not that much. I think it is because people are too busy or the expenses are too high. I wish to take this opportunity to wish all Guyanese, especially the Hindus a happy Phagwah. This occasion signifies the triumph of good over evil and we hope that whatever evil transpires on a day to day basis would be triumphed by good. Apart from playing Phagwah with relatives and friends, I would be moving around to all of the mandirs to meet people and be part of their celebration. The residents of Hogtown, a depressed community on the Corentyne where we are doing some work, have also invited me to share in the fun.’

Pradeep BachanPradeep Bachan, political activist: ‘Guyanese from all walks of life participate in phagwah and during the past years this used to happen more often. We are not seeing that so much now. I do not miss out the fun although I’m a Christian. We need to use these occasions to bring people together. At least we can say that while the rest of the world is not having religious harmony and is fighting each other, Guyana is a shining example in that regard. We can also use these festivities to bring political harmony. With the Phagwah Mela held yearly in Berbice, persons turn out in their number to join in the fun. I’m looking forward to it again this year.’

Carol NurseCarol Nurse, social activist: ‘For me Phagwah is not the joyous occasion like we had long ago. I can remember that as a little girl everybody used to participate. To me the religious differences have taken a toll and a lot of people are not celebrating. But Phagwah is a national holiday and seeing that all of us are Guyanese, we all should celebrate. Even though some people might not like the mud they can play with the powder and water and enjoy the fun. On Friday I was at Bath Primary and I enjoyed seeing all of the children playing and having a good time. This festivity should be just as how everybody celebrates Christmas and for Easter they are part of kite flying. Leaving out the religious aspects, people should look at it as a national day of fun. I plan to visit some of my friends and I would play Phagwah with them.’

Viola BennViola Benn, senior teacher: ‘The Phagwah celebration is not the same as a few years ago. People used to go around and do chowtal singing in the popular Hindu areas. I found that times have changed because a lot of the Hindus have turned Christian. Now you find that a lot of people who celebrate don’t know the meaning of Phagwah. They would just use anything like muddy water and would even throw it on people who don’t want to play and that would cause a problem. The Hindu leaders should make people aware of what the festival is all about. I think those who are involved in such activities should be careful what they use and how they use it on people. There are some of the wicked boys out there. It is a joyous occasion and happy time for everyone especially the kids but some people misunderstand the meaning of it.’

Rudra MohabirRudra Mohabir, student: ‘Phagwah was always a fun celebration for me. But when I was younger a lot of people used to do the right thing, like playing with powder, abeer and so. But now the use of nasty items like mud and cow dung increased and people are hardly interested in playing. People used to be able to walk freely without having anyone wet them or throw powder on them. Now they are afraid to leave their homes. A lot of fights have broken out as a result and that is not how Phagwah should be at all. I still have a good time with my friends and family though.’

Hilbert FosterHilbert Foster, CEO of Rose Hall Town Youth & Sport Club: ‘In my view Phagwah is not like it was celebrated before, as clean fun. At least in my young days we used to play with water from the trench in the morning and abeer and abrak in the afternoon. We used to respect each other but now there is no respect for persons who don’t want to play. I would like to wish the Hindu community a happy Phagwah. I want the young people to get the message that good always win over evil and that they must strive to be faithful to the God they serve. I also hope that our country would take lessons and make sure that good always win and put petty attitudes behind and work for the good of all Guyanese.’

Saleema YacoobSaleema Yacoob, regional councillor: ‘The Phagwah celebration is far different now. Long ago it was significant because people were observing the religious aspect more. Now people are losing the whole concept of it and are celebrating mostly for fun, using all kinds of things to play with. This causes a lot of problems among people. On Friday after school, a group of boys were playing Phagwah and they ended up interfering with a man. The man picked up a cutlass and ran them and then they collected sticks and bottles and turned back on the man. They started to pelt the man and he had to run back. I think police even had to get involved.’

Bhagmattie KurhairBhagmattie Kurhair:  ‘This young generation doesn’t know how to celebrate Phagwah in the right way. They just play for the fun of it without realizing the true significance. It is a joyous festival and of course you can have fun. But they need to realize that they cannot get people angry by wetting them and messing them up and call that fun. We all know that Phagwah signifies the triumph of good over evil and that is the way we should live our lives and don’t let the evil in this world overcome us.’

Imran KhanImran Khan, student: ‘I do not celebrate Phagwah but I like the festival because it is a lot of fun. Lots of Hindus are living in my community and I enjoy seeing them playing on Phagwah day. They share a lot of sweetmeat to my family as well. This is a joyous festival and everyone would be busy cleaning up and preparing for it. At school I would play Phagwah with my friends and it is not about the religious aspect. That is the only time we can actually get to enjoy ourselves like that so I don’t miss out.’

Paul Dipnarine Paul Dipnarine, 1st division cricketer/electrician engineering student: ‘This is a joyous and colourful occasion and one that is celebrated to signify the triumph of good over evil. I have always enjoyed the Phagwah celebration because it brings people closer together. I would be spending the day with my family and friends, going to the mandir, playing with powder, water and abeer and having a good time.’

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