Holi Celebration “One of the greatest excitement” for Hindu community in Utica.


Introduction to Holi Hai.

Holi is an important festival to Hindus. All around the world. Its mostly celebrated in India and Nepal. It is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna (February/March), (Phalgun Purnima), which usually falls in March, sometimes in late February.

.Holi celebrations start with a Holika Bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where everyone plays, chases and colors each other with dry powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns and colored water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. come and join “The Holi celebration 2014”. We, the Association of Hindu society of Utica NY joined With Colgate university Hindu students and celebrating HOLI HAI.

We have arranged transportation (School Bus) for those who are  K-12 students from Utica City school district . if anyone interested than they should arrange  their own transportation. we are requesting interested participant to meet us in front of the refugee center on April 2nd at 9:45 AM. For further information Please contact Mukti Rijal (Sagar) at (315)507-2129.

Food,  Fun, Colors.

Colgate university 

13 Oak Drive Hamilton, NY.

Time: 11:30 to 1:30 PM.

Bhutanese Refugee women Celebrate Teej of 2013

Today at 1116 Taylor Ave. Bhutanese Hindu people, celebrated a great festival Teej (Hari Talika pooja in Nepali). There were 25+ women in attendance.  They jointly participated in the ritual held at the Rijal Residency.  This celebration mostly of women, is in honor  of the married woman to her living husband and for those seeking a good husband and long life in the future.  The rituals pass through the pojas of Lord Shiva as the main deities. After the rituals they have food, drinks, and dance. Women dress in bright colored sari’s, in the colors of red & pink, wearing there green beaded marriage necklaces, showing their purity and devotion to their husbands. Hindu ladies consider this festival to be the biggest of the year.ImageImage

Ganga Rijal, the Utica area’s only Hindu priest


Ganga Rijal is keeping customs alive while still becoming familiar with American ways of life. As a Hindu priest living in Utica, he leads other Hindus in the Utica, Syracuse and Albany communities in rituals, ceremonies and religious matters from birth to death.

Keeping culture and religious customs alive is what he strives for as he becomes more established in the United States. It is a joy for him to attend and lead ceremonies that bring Hindus together and educate others on Hinduism. Ganga is so revered as a Hindu priest and scholar that newer priests are intimidated to perform religious rituals in front of him. This makes him and his family proud and feel prestigious in their new community.

Ganga is 54 years old and lives with his family in Utica.  He has seven children and was born in Bhutan village of Dagana. He married at age 11 and then studied religion under a harsh teacher who kept him confined until age 17. After his certification in Bhutan he practiced as a Hindu priest. Conditions between the Bhutanese government and citizens of Nepali origin became more tense and time went on and Ganga and his family were put in a Nepali refugee camp where he learned about Hindu astrology, horoscopic evaluation and writing horoscopes.

Most of the Rijal family came to the United States in November 2009. Life in America was drastically different from his upbringing in Bhutan and Nepal. Maintaining a strong Hindu faith is crucial to him and his family’s life and happiness in their new country. Because they are a new Hindu community, there are limited resources in the Mohawk Valley. Religious materials sacred to Hinduism are limited and a space big enough to accommodate large congregations and rituals has not been found. Most celebrations are community based and cannot be held in a small home.

American ways of life also bring positive changes with more choices.  Needs that were scarce in Bhutan and Nepal such as food, education and housing are more plentiful in the United States and he is happy to see his children become educated here. Ganga has a Facebook page that he enjoys using with his daughter and son. This allows him to keep in touch with friends and family in Bhutan, Nepal and other parts of the United States. He focuses on yoga and a system of spiritual healing providing awareness on pharmaceutical medications.

As a Hindu religious priest, he teaches rich religious and spiritual assets to the devotee and performs many kinds of rituals throughout the year. He believes in one self and if every individual person tries with their best effort then we can live a life of peace and prosperity. He promises to provide spiritual awareness and education with higher spiritual value to the community.

Diversity put on display at Fashion and Talent Show

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A packed auditorium was recently treated to the many talents of adult students from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees at a Cultural Fashion and Talent Show.

Native clothing, musical arrangements, singing and dancing from around the globe were put on display in front an audience of more than 100 people.  From a feisty Dominican dance to a classical Russian accordion arrangement, the audience was wowed by each performance.

“This was a great opportunity for them to showcase their abilities. These are things they don’t want to forget and they want other cultures to see as well,” said Chris Inserra, an adult ESL teacher at the MVRCR.

The event kicked off with students modeling fashions from their native country. An array of colors, patterns and styles were strutted on stage each bringing their own ethnic flair to life. Some of the countries represented were the Burma, Russia, Belarus, Nepal and the Dominican Republic. Song and dance selections from those countries were also performed in the talent show portion.

Tilachan Acharya opened the talent show by singing a heartfelt Nepali song, “Your Love Holds Me Close,” and then moved into a quick dance bouncing joyfully around the stage. Irina Sinkovets, from Belarus, graced the keys as she played delicate Russian and classical keyboard arrangements.

While the audience was enthusiastic with every performance, Nima Tamang, of Nepal, really generated excitement with his interpretive and exuberant dance routine. He started slowly then effortlessly crossed over into fast footwork that proved he has been dancing since he was a young boy.

Phaw Mo danced, sang or played acoustic guitar in several acts during the show. He and his close friend, Myit, performed a dance routine that originated in the Karen region of Burma. It charmed the audience and his singing and guitar playing enhanced other parts of the show. Preserving their heritage is essential for refugee groups to survive in their new country. “I love Karen, the people and showing heritage,” Mo said. “I love songs, music and sharing.”

The show closed with an adult class singing American folk songs, acknowledging appreciation for life in their new country. “It was marvelous – they should be proud of themselves,” said Joanne Russo, an audience member and friend of a few performers. “They should keep (sharing) their diversity with the community because they are amazing.”

The Cultural Fashion and Talent show was held on April 17 at the MVRCR. Other performers participated as well. Visit the Gallery to see more photos from the event.

Bhutanese-Nepali talent shines on the Stanley stage at CultureFest

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Members of the Bhutanese-Nepali community showed up and showed out at Saturday’s CultureFest at the Stanley Center for the Arts. All who performed brought traditional songs and dances along with live music to the stage with pride and joy.

Many of their unique talents and cherished cultural delights were shared with about 1,000 attendees who passed through the Stanley to experience a variety of international foods, styles of music and crafts.

The audience squealed with glee as Nima Tamang solo danced to the Nepali song “Don’t Burn Your Heart.” While the intended theme is reflecting on how much it hurts to remember someone from your past, Tamang’s interpretation was anything but melancholy. He leapt exuberantly around the stage never stopping full body dancing until the final note.

Tamang was one of four acts in the Bhutanese-Nepali and Asian part of the program. It opened with sweet melodies from the band Bhutanese-Nepali Folk (BNF). The group performed five Nepali songs – all sung in the Nepali language — in front of a cheering audience. The opening song “Jahgah Lamka” celebrated youth empowerment urging young people to make sacrifices for their future. BNF are committed to maintaining their cultural traditions by putting their own spin on old Nepali folk songs.

BNF members Tek Monger and Mon Ranamagar were thrilled to participate in an event that celebrated diversity in the Utica area. The group formed about a year ago and practice regularly at members’ homes. Monger said they look forward to performing in front of large audiences because “we can express our talent and feelings and people can get to know our music.” The ethnic pride shown at CultureFest was an experience he will always remember. “This was wonderful and I hope we come back next year.”

Also part of the program was a spirited Karen-Burmese rope dance charmed the audience as the dancers skillfully braided and unbraided a pole with bright-colored rope. The finale was Tilachan Acharya’s strong performance of the song, “My Heart is a Nepali Heart,” about loyalty to Nepali heritage. The rock and roll-sounding tune was the perfect choice to close the program as some members of the audience danced in their seats right up until he finished.

Many felt uplifted after the program because such a strong feeling of camaraderie was exuded from people they had not met before. Ed and Pauline Donnelly of Clinton were impressed with the entire event, but were truly moved by the “honor” shown by the Bhutanese-Nepali performers and spectators – many of them children.

“It was amazing to see a group of people, young and old, take such pride in their heritage and want to share it with others,” Ed said. “We just don’t see that a lot from a lot of young people today. This was a wonderful way to learn about different cultures in our area.”

CultureFest was sponsored by Townsquare Media. Earlier in the program, Sen. Joe Griffo presented the Cultural Ambassador of the Year Award to Polish community member Julian Noga.

Hindus will celebrate their New Year on April 14


Like many ancient cultures, the Hindu New Year is celebrated with the arrival of spring. Hindus around the world recognize their New Year on different dates — even having different names for New Year depending on their geography and language.

The Nepali New Year, known as Navavarsha, usually falls in the second week of April or on April 14 (as it does this year). That day coincides with the sun’s entrance into the constellation Mesha (Aries), the first sign in Hindu astrology. But it will not kick off the start of 2013 or 2014. Instead, Hindus will usher in the year 2070 because they follow the lunar calendar that is 57 years ahead of the Western (Gregorian) solar calendar.

A lunar calendar is based on the movement of the moon and is shorter than a solar calendar, which is the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. The Nepali lunar calendar is called Bikaram Sambat (an example of the Nepali calendar is at the end of this entry). Lunar days are called tithis. They are calculated by using the difference of the longitudinal angle between the position of the sun and moon. Because of this, tithis vary in length and may or may not have changed by the time the day has ended. A tithi can be omitted or two consecutive days can share the same tithi.
The New Year is welcomed with feelings of optimism and goodwill among Hindus. Many wear new clothes, exchange foods and gifts and extend kind gestures toward one another. Homes are cleaned and decorated with rangoli, bright colored, patterned folk art. A picture of rangoli, also known as kolam, is shown at the top of this entry. Rangoli are decorative designs made on the thresholds of homes and in courtyards. They are meant to be sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu gods and goddesses and are also thought to bring good luck. Design depictions may vary as they usually reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area. They are created by using colored rice, colored dry flour, sand or flower petals.

Nepali calendar

Colgate University hosting Holi event March 30

A Holi celebration will take place at Colgate University in Hamilton around 1 p.m. Saturday, March 30. The event is being organized by the Hindu students of Colgate University.

The Association of Hindu Society and Hindu students from Utica schools are planning to take a bus that would accommodate around 50 people. Those who can provide their own transportation are encouraged to do so and it would be helpful to offer a ride to others who may need one.

For information, contact Mukti “Sagar” Rijal at (315) 507-2129 or email him at hauny001@gmail.com


Smiles everywhere at SUNYIT Holi event


Happy Holi! The Association of Hindu Society of Utica, NY celebrated the annual Holi festival with other local Hindus and community members on March 23 at SUNYIT. The Indian Student Association of the Mohawk Valley and International Student Association at SUNYIT organized the lively event. About 140 people attended. Ethnicities from all over the world participated in the celebration, including refugees and immigrants from India, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma, Sudan, Yemen, Congo and Bangladesh, said David Garrett, director of International Student Services at SUNYIT.

Holi is the Hindu festival of colors. The Campus Center was filled with boisterous participants – and some non-Hindus as well—who joyously threw and smeared colored powder on one another in a custom known for welcoming spring. Many of those in attendance said they were excited for weeks about this festival because of the fun and warmth that always goes along with it.

Pramila Rijal and her friend, Lovely, screamed when their favorite Hindu song, “Tum Hi Ho Bandhu” began to play and hit the dance floor. Manjusha Sahay was happy that her young son Shashwat could experience another Holi event outside of India (their native country).

Watching from a balcony upstairs were many who did not want to get “colored” but still wanted to participate. Holland Patent residents Jason and Jennifer Henninger were interested in learning about the tradition. Jason is an ESL teacher at Proctor High School in Utica and is impressed by his Nepali students. “They are really hard workers and are such gentle and kind people,” he said. “I’m happy for the way the are establishing themselves.”

The room was filled with laughter and camaraderie as Hindu dancing and music, dinner from Minar and an outdoor bonfire continued through later in the evening. The event was certainly a crowd pleaser. Continue to check our website to see what other interesting events and activities are planned.

Nepali cuisine – culturally influenced yet distinctly original

DSCN1265Colorful dishes, spicy flavors and fragrant aromas are the savory elements that make Nepali cuisine just as intriguing as the country from which it originates. On a recent visit to the Rijal home in Utica, I was treated to a Nepalese dinner that stimulated all senses.

Set on lace tablecloth was an arrangement of small bowls of achars, Nepali side dishes, next to a large brass plate (thali) filled with white rice. It was a color palette of sorts, a culturally fused meal commonly known as a Nepali Thali. This is a meal of several dishes on one plate. A large space in the center is for rich or a starch food. A standard Nepali Thali is always dal (lentil soup), and baht (rice), but can be accompanied by several different kids of achars. Achar means spicy pickle and can be mixtures of fruits and vegetables with spices.

The Rijal’s version of a Nepali Thali didn’t disappoint – especially if you are a spicy food lover. Achars included radish pickle (mula ko achar), tomato chutney, curried potatoes and tomatoes (aloo tamatar subzi), chili peppers (khursani), lentil soup and homemade yogurt. The yogurt was just the right accompaniment to help cool down when needed. Everything was delicious – Indian flair with authentic Nepali touches.

Nepal’s neighboring countries had an influence on its cuisine as Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and Arab flairs can be tasted in many dishes. Many of the meals and side dishes served at dinner are eaten at breakfast as well. Regular and chai tea are the Nepali drinks of choice.

Here are some other interesting facts about Nepali dining customs:

• While dining, it is customary to eat without using utensils. Usually the right hand is used to mix the vegetables, meats, dals, achars or curries with rice and then quickly bringing them to the mouth. Nepalis use the left hand for personal hygiene and will not accept anything handed to them with the left hand for fear of making the food impure.

• When drinking from a glass or cup, it is important to hold it so that the fluid goes in the mouth, but the lips should never touch the cup rim. This is another example of the Hindu concern for making impure by touching it.

• Any food that has already been tasted, sipped or bitten into is considered polluted – even if you have only touched it with your spoon or fork.

• Meals are traditionally eaten squatting or sitting on the floor.

• It is considered rude to stand in front of someone who is eating, where your feet will be close to the food.

• Cows are considered sacred and beef is never cooked or eaten.

• Women do not eat before their husbands and do not eat along with guests.