This past week, the Indian Student Organization hosted Holi, the festival of color and love, in which students smeared powdered color on each other to celebrate the beginning of spring. For a brief period, Welsh Field outside of Kalmanovitz Hall was inhabited by people dressed in ratty old white t-shirts and shorts, with Go-Pro’s, selfie sticks, and phones inside Ziplocs, to protect them from the color. On one of the sunniest days of the semester, with St. Ignatius Church serving as the backdrop, students could be seen chasing each other around with bright colors such as yellow, pink, purple, and orange that would soon fill the air; it could have served perfectly as the music video setting for Portugal. The Man’s groovy tune Purple Yellow Red and Blue.
Shanan Prasad, secretary of the ISO, gave a great description of the religious and social significance of the festival, “Holi is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil. In Hindu religion, there are several devils who try to get in the way of the good gods, but it was always believed that no matter how successful an evil deed may be, good will always come around and defeat it, bringing evil to its end.”
She added, “Holi is celebrated in lieu of a devil’s sister named Holika, which is why Holi is named Holi. Besides the religious aspect, Holi is to celebrate the arrival of spring and prosperity. Beautiful colors, fun, and laughter are all symbolic of spring.”
Prasad also believes the event serves as a way to spread awareness of Indian culture. “We hope to grow more recognition for the ISO club as a whole, and to also bring more Indian culture on campus to help fellow Indian students feel more at home, but also to introduce our culture to the other cultures represented here at USF. We really just want members and other people to have fun during this event.
She commented on the extensive planning that the event required, “When we plan something for so long, it really touches our heart to see people enjoying, laughing, and smiling. It is a celebration of spring, so you definitely do not have to be a Hindu or Indian to celebrate this festival; it is more of celebrating in the Indian way.”
This year’s celebration is only the second time Holi has been held on campus, but it is an event that ISO President Mohak Singh hopes will continue for years to come. Holi has great meaning to Singh, and he believes it is something important to Indian students at USF. Mohak continues on his fond memories of Holi celebrations, from back when he took part in the festival in New Delhi: “Back when I lived in India I used to look forward to this day all year. There are no rules, you just throw colors and water balloons at everyone, no one has work, and school was cancelled!”
He wanted to share that with everyone at USF, “It is important to me that people know and are aware of Indian culture and that we have a strong Indian community on campus. Even to those people who don’t know about Holi, once they come to the event, they will have fun and they will learn about a culture different from their own.”
Sophomore Kelsey Mays, who was at first reluctant to join in on the fun, eventually gave in to her friends’ petitions. She believes ISO is getting through to non-Indian and non-Hindu students, and is successfully spreading awareness on Indian and Hindu culture: “It is really important that our university celebrates different cultural events, and this was a great opportunity to do that. I am really glad that ISO was able to cultivate an event where they brought students together to participate in an experience that another culture has. It is great that it was out there, and that being there and seeing it gave a chance to talk about it.”
Photo Credits: Racquel Gonzales/Foghorn