By Laura Fitzgerald, Senior Staff Writer
Delighted screams erupt from Miami University students as they pelt each other with water balloons and brightly colored powder. Red, yellow, blue and green dust hangs in the air, a pastel rainbow descending over the grass and smothering smiling students from head to toe.
This is Holi.
Also known as the “Festival of Colors,” Holi is a Hindu festival celebrated in India, Nepal and other places with Indian and Hindu populations, but it is also celebrated by non-Hindus. The day features huge festivals in which friends and family throw colored powder at each other and spray each other with water.
Junior Ashka Patel is president of the Indian Student Association, which hosted the event. Part of the fun of Holi at Miami is celebrating it with a variety of people and friends.
“It’s a lot more exciting here because there are so many people and so many people with different ideas of what the Hindu religion is and what Holi is,” Patel said.
The ancient holiday has its origins in several stories in the Hindu religion, but many people also celebrate it as a secular holiday, or as the coming of spring. It is generally a time for people to have fun and break down social barriers, since everyone participates, from old to young and from rich to poor.
The version on central quad included a speaker at the beginning explained the origins and cultural significance of Holi, a Bollywood dance, water balloons, color and Bollywood music.
Patel says this is an opportunity for everyone, from students to members of the Oxford community.
“We really hope to reach out to not everyone that’s just on campus but everyone living around us,” Patel said.
The focus of ISA’s event is more on Indian culture and the celebration of Holi rather than the religious aspect, Patel said.
Growing up, Patel celebrated Holi at her local temple in Cleveland. It was a smaller celebration, and the focus was more on religion.
Patel says that while she enjoyed celebrating Holi with her family at home, she also likes the holiday at Miami because it’s a different kind of celebration.
“Here with it all being college students it’s OK to run and throw it in someone’s face and jump on someone’s back,” Patel said. “I wouldn’t do that to someone back at the temple.”
Sophomore Soumya Trivedi is from Ahmedabad, India. At home, she says her family would decorate the house and hang dubatta — colored pieces of cloth — to trees and have all of their friends and family over in a huge party. Her family had a tradition of playing cricket after lunch.
Trivedi said while she misses celebrating Holi with her family and the larger festivities in India, she enjoys the celebration that ISA throws.
“Because it’s in a completely different country, I understand that it’s not going to be as good as it was back home, but it’s still something that I enjoy because it reminds me of home,” Trivedi said.
Senior Ginny Houge did not celebrate Holi before she came to Miami, but now she takes part in the holiday as a member of the Indian Student Association. She says she enjoys learning about other cultures and holidays.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot of Hindu culture, so it was interesting to get out of the bubble and see how they might celebrate a holiday,” Houge said.
Houge joined ISA after a trip to India her sophomore year and fell in love with the culture. Holi and ISA is a good way to expand students’ knowledge and acknowledge someone else’s culture, she said.
Holi is also just a good way to get a break from school and have fun with friends, Houge said.
“It’s just a really happy event that everyone participates in,” Houge said. “No one is in a bad mood while they’re there.”