The most pious paint party – Hindu’s festival Holi

Color wars

A deep bass line thumped, drawing pockets of students dressed in white to McKeldin Mall. They poured in from every direction, forming a small crowd in front of the administration building. The sun beat down as Seema Shekar, Hindu Students Council president, took the microphone. After going through a few safety measures, the senior biology major paused and said, “Welcome to Holi 2014!”
The crowd roared and multicolored powder flew.

With that, Holi 2014 began. The HSC held its seventh Holi festival yesterday, drawing a crowd of more than 300 students of diverse religious backgrounds who came together to celebrate the coming of spring with music, water and most importantly, color.

Holi, a Hindu holiday, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. People all over the world gather with friends, family and strangers to throw colored powder in honor of a young boy’s victory over two demons. More recently, however, the holiday has become a cultural phenomenon related to the start of spring.

The HSC’s celebration included T-shirts, a DJ, a makeshift Slip ‘N Slide and plenty of colorful powder fit for throwing. The festival traditionally isn’t celebrated with the contemporary music and atmosphere of the HSC’s event.

“Ours caters to our crowd,” said junior materials science and engineering major Tejas Devaraj, an HSC member. “It’s a day and a time to welcome the spring, dance and have fun with friends while painting one another bright with colors.”

Devaraj and other members of the HSC spent the spring semester planning this event. Holi is one of two events the group hosts annually on the campus. The first event, Garba, is a dance performed during Navaratri, a Hindu holiday in the fall. In the months between the two main events, the group schedules trips to local Hindu temples. The group, while primarily religious in nature, is also interested in volunteer opportunities.

“We always do a lot of extracurriculars,” said Daven Desai, a junior journalism major and HSC member. “We go out and help service food kitchens. That’s why we go to the temple; it’s not for prayer, it’s for community outreach.”

Holi functions in a similar way, Desai said. Though the holiday is traditionally a religious event, Desai said the HSC celebration focused more on the campus community, as it sought to bridge the gap between the many diverse religions and backgrounds on the campus. During Holi, he said, everyone has a mutual agreement to celebrate the season and just have fun.

“Holi has an association with forgiveness, and while we haven’t made this a religious event, we want people to come out and have fun and enjoy each other’s company,” Devaraj said.

The preparation for this event involved more than just booking a DJ and ordering some shirts, HSC members said. The colors came in the form of a special allergen-free, washable powder that the group imported from India a few weeks in advance. While the traditional Indian festival occurs as the vernal equinox approaches — which fell during this university’s spring break on March 20 — the HSC tried to work around other events to ensure maximum attendance.

“Usually it’s around April, so we try not to do Easter weekend. We try to figure out if there’s something going on on campus that would affect turnout,” said sophomore business and criminology and criminal justice major Shradha Sahani, the event coordinator.

She added that the celebration takes place on the mall because it’s the most central part of the campus — and so the color doesn’t stain buildings or sidewalks.

The HSC seeks to educate people about a culture that many are interested in but know little about. Many students come to the event knowing nothing of its origin, Desai said. Through a short opening prayer and historical explanation before the festivities, Holi gave the crowd a legitimate reason to celebrate.

“This is really fun and a great way to bring the campus diversity together,” said freshman animal sciences major Tori Mezebish.

Source: The Diamondback