In between games of softball on Whitnall Field, last Saturday over 200 students, faculty and community members could be found getting down and dirty with color. Sponsored by the Hindu Student Association (HSA), this year’s Holi Festival was the most well-attended yet. The unique cultural event featured excellent food, interesting company and an annually anticipated activity.
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the arrival of spring and the slaying of the demon king Hiranyakashipu and his sister Holika. Since the arrival of spring is marked by colorful new blossoms all around, people celebrate Holi by throwing colored powder and water at each other. It is also believed that the colors take away the sorrows of life and make life more colorful. At HSA’s yearly event, Hindu students and non-Hindu students alike embrace this tradition with zest.
Holi also carries great significance in Hindu mythology. The demon king Hiranyakashipu tried to kill his own son Prahlad because he was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried to kill Prahlad by having him sit on the lap of his sister Holika, who had a boon so that fire could not hurt her, on a pyre. Prahlad prayed to Lord Vishnu to protect him, and so Holika was burnt to death while Prahlad escaped unharmed. Lord Vishnu then killed Hiranyakashipu himself. People commemorate this event by lighting effigies and bonfires the night before Holi.
HSA’s Holi event started off in the Hall of Presidents, with the guests being treated to delicious Indian food. Among the guests were about 40 Nepali and Burmese refugees from the refugee center in Utica, who had been invited to the celebration so that they could reconnect with their native culture as they attempt to restart their lives in the US. This was followed by a short presentation by members of the HSA about the festival, its significance and how it is celebrated. After the the presentation was done and people had finished eating, the event moved to Whitnall Field. The actual date of Holi this year was March 1, but the HSA decided to hold the celebration at Colgate later keeping in mind the finicky weather in Hamilton. In the end, this turned out to be a great decision because Saturday’s event saw remarkably good weather for Hamilton at this time of the year. The next hour allowed more than 200 people enjoy themselves like toddlers by throwing colors at each other and dancing to Indian music, leaving attendees eagerly anticipating next year’s festival.