Milan Mandir celebrates the Holi festival with participants from all over the world

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The Milan Mandir Grand Annual Holi Festival was held Sunday, March 19, at Minnesota Hindu Milan Mandir in Farmington. The event included games, colors, pichacari, gulaal, music and food. Photos by Maren Bauer

fm-holi-girls On this chilly March day, the day before the official first day of spring, people dance to the Holi music, a fusion of what sounds like electronic dance music and Bollywood, while covered in colored powder.

The celebrators smile and laugh incessantly and dance in groups, in conga lines, or on their own just lost in the rhythm. The festival-goers have lost themselves to the joy of the moment — heartwarming despite the cold.

I ask to speak to Satya Balroop, the temple’s general secretary, and as I wait for someone to find her, the festival’s participants come up to me with “abrac,” the colored powder, smearing it onto my cheeks, my hair, my back, my arms. It feels like these strangers I’ve never met are blessing me with the hope of joy as they celebrate spring’s coming. I’m typically not a big fan of strangers touching my face, but it’s hard to deny a grinning child who has just the hint of mischief in the glint of his eye.

The festival

The Hindu tradition of celebrating Holi marks the welcoming of spring, and a time to burn away the evil spirits.

Satya Balroop, of Eagan, shares what she loves about the festival: “I love how it brings life into this dull, greyness. I love when people come out and dance and we can share in this Oneness.”

All people are welcome to participate in the event. It’s not about race, religion, gender, or social class, she said. Holi celebrates the end of winter and the coming of new life and growth in the spring.

People come to the site from all over the south metro and there’s even an elderly couple who have come all the way from India.

History

Milan Mandir, a temple for followers of Hindu, is first of its kind in the south metro as a branch of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha.

There are smaller temples housed at private residences, but this is the largest Hindu congregation in Minnesota aside from the 43,000-square-foot Hindu Temple of Minnesota in Maple Grove.

The work to establish the Hindu Milan Mandir has taken years of cultivation.

General secretary Satya Balroop’s family started a prayer service out of her house in the late 1990s in Eagan when they moved to Minnesota from New York.

Balroop eventually transformed her two-car garage into a Mandir when they ran out of space.

Now, they have been using the 18,000-square-foot former church at 501 Walnut St. in Farmington.

“That’s what we felt the Lord wanted us to do,” Balroop said at the time. “We loved it the first day we stepped in the place.”

The building was purchased in 2012, but it needed several repairs.

There were enough issues that it took a few years to get it ready for an official opening.

“That’s what faith is all about,” said Swami Parameshananda, the Hindu Milan Mandir’s minister. “Struggling is how we know we’re alive. As long as there’s struggle, there’s life.”