A cloud of colored powder filled the sky above Rainier Vista on Friday as UW students gathered to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi, widely known as the Festival of Colors. The event was put on for the 12th year by the Indian Student Association (ISA) and South Asian Student Association (SASA), in partnership with ASUW Asian Student Commission (ASC), and drew in a crowd of nearly 300.
Holi is typically celebrated for two days in late March and marks the arrival of spring, the end of evil, and a celebration of love and friendship. The festival originated from a Hindu mythological tale in which Lord Vishnu burned the demon Holika and saved his devotee from a pyre. Many communities light a bonfire the day before Holi to symbolize burning all that is bad.
The festival is marked with iconic images of people joyously throwing colored powder at each other. The colors represent springtime and protection from evil, but, most importantly, they also unify people from different backgrounds.
“It brings together a lot of different people,” said Rohan Bhat, ISA president and UW senior. “It is fun to see people coming together, especially once the powder starts getting thrown.”
The use of colors is based on another Hindu tale in which Lord Vishnu felt apprehensive approaching his love, goddess Radha, because he had blue skin. He playfully colors her face blue too so there are no differences between the two of them.
“My favorite part of the event was throwing colored powder into the air with everyone else at the beginning,” said Shruti Aundhe, a freshman at the UW who attended the event.
Attendees were asked to wear white clothing they wouldn’t mind getting dirty, so the colors would pop out more vividly in photographs.
The UW is home to many cultural RSOs, and South Asian organizations attempt to give the university community a glimpse of India and the other cultures of the region. ASC supports that cause by promoting collaboration between leaders in the Asian community.
“It is essential to provide everyone on campus a feeling of belonging and a sense of community,” said Keertana Krishnan, SASA finance chair and a junior at UW. “SASA takes pride in showcasing and sharing our culture and creating an environment where fewer people feel disenfranchised.”
The UW places great emphasis on campus diversity, and cultural RSOs are a small part of that initiative. SASA hosts social and philanthropic events that spread cultural awareness under the South Asian umbrella, which includes India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Likewise, ISA aims to present an accurate representation of Indian culture to the UW community.
“Students can celebrate and learn about different cultures’ festivities, and this helps unite our student body at the UW,” freshman Pavithra Rao said. “Cultural RSOs enable students to become more open-minded and culturally aware individuals.”
Holi is not only widely celebrated in India, but has made its way onto many college campuses and communities in the United States. Cultural festivities like Holi have also influenced western culture through events like color runs.
UW Holi is held in the spring every year and draws large, diverse crowds. In the past it has drawn up to 1000 attendees, and you could be one of them this time next year.