Holi festival of color kicks off spring

Tossing colorful dust into the air, students celebrate the forthcoming of spring and triumph of good over evil in Vassar’s Holi celebration. Although rooted in Hinduism, the festival transcends cultural and territorial borders. Courtesy of Diana Weina Liu

Vibrant colors swirled through the air, blowing with gusts of wind and landing in rainbow smatterings upon revelers at the Holi celebration on April 27. Clouds of dust settled, coloring sweaters and jeans vivid shades of blue, green, red, pink and purple. Participants giggled, sprinting across the quad lawn while flinging handfuls of powder, all to the soundtrack of bouncy Bollywood music.

The colored powder, called gulal, plays a role in many Hindu rituals, including Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors. Holi is celebrated primarily in India, but in other South Asian countries as well, to mark the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil. In huge public celebrations, people of all ages and classes come together to throw brilliantly colored powders and water at each other.

Above, Vassar students execute a proper celebration of the Holi holiday by throwing
colorful powder at one another. Numerous international students in attendance explained
that Vassar’s festival connected them to their homes—however distant they may be. Courtesy of Diana Weina Liu

On Saturday, April 27, the South Asian Students Alliance (SASA) hosted a celebration of Holi on the quad, replete with energy and colorful pigments. The crowd ranged from young children to adults and people of all backgrounds joined in on the fun. With music blasting and people lining up for sweet foods, the powders rained down on the quad in flurries as people tossed them playfully at each other. Holi is celebrated every year at Vassar as a way to bring people together and form meaningful connections. It revels in culture, color and community as South Asians and non-South Asians alike are encouraged to come together as a campus in this vibrant and joyous celebration. SASA Co-President Aditi Chandna ’19 commented, “Holi is technically a religious Hindu festival in South Asia, but it’s just one of those festivals that is more of a cultural thing celebrated across South Asia.” She also described the spirit of Holi: “The essence of Holi is to take color and drop it on someone and say ‘Happy Holi,’ to celebrate the onset of spring.”

Spring was definitely in the air among streams of powders and the smell of food. Festival-goer and SASA First-Year Representative Vandana Dronadula ’22 added, “Holi connects you to somewhere that you feel really far away from.”

Holi is an important celebration for the South Asian community at Vassar, partly because it provides a reminder of home. With her hair and face coated in red and pink, Sasha Gopalakrishnan ’20 [Full disclosure: Gopalakrishnan is a Contributing Editor for The Miscellany News] stated: “As a South Asian, it’s a very important festival at home; it’s the festival of color. It helps me feel my connection to home while I’m still here. Also, it’s a nice expression of community.” Many participants agreed that SASA’s celebration fostered a sense of home at Vassar.

A venerated day in Hindu culture, Holi is widley celebrated across South and Southeast
Asia. The South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) brought the vibrant festival to Vassar. Courtesy of Diana Weina Liu

Director for Religious and Spiritual Life and Contemplative Practices (RSLCP) Sam Speers and Associate Dean of the College for Residential Life and Wellness Luis Inoa helped to organize and plan the event. Reverend Speers remarked, “[Inoa and I have] been coming for the last several years. Holi means community and celebration and colors and springtime and the strength of our amazing SASA community at Vassar.” SASA worked together with these offices to purchase the colors over a month in advance and to make sure that they were organic and could be washed off easily.

As an ALANA identity org, SASA’s mission is multi-faceted. Chandna emphasized that, in addition to hosting many cultural events of which Holi is one, the org also focuses on building a sense of community among South Asians on campus. Further, SASA hopes to raise awareness about South Asian culture within the broader Vassar and general Poughkeepsie community.

Streaked with color and bubbling with glee, SASA and Vassar as a whole welcomed the arrival of spring amongst the luscious greens and pink petals of the quad.

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