Colors fly in the air. People chuckle freely as they smear large chunks of powder on their friends’ faces. Students stomp and run around fearfully but excitedly from another water balloon attack. Everyone is laminated in red, orange, blue, green and purple. Not a single person is uncolored.
The Holi festival brings out the playfulness in every individual, like a small child who hasn’t had the time to unwind or laugh in a while.
Holi is one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals in the world. It originates from countries such as India and Nepal and relates to spirituality.
Considering how largely Holi is celebrated around the world, it also impacts Augustana students.
Sophomore Vedant Thakkar, who’s from India, said that the Augustana International Club and the International Programs Office had done a marvelous job in making sure that particular cultures were celebrated on campus.
Thakkar didn’t see too many differences between celebrating Holi here or anywhere else in the world.
“It’s the same,” Thakkar said. “The only thing is we don’t have enough water balloons or water guns, but it’s the same.”
Thakkar also highlighted the aspects of Holi that make it unique and worthy of celebration.
“It’s a very inclusive festival, where it’s like everyone can come and play,” he said. “It’s just like, it’s so much fun! It’s not only celebrating religion, but we are also building community.”
A student from Nepal, Sneha Acharya, who also contributed to making Holi possible at Augustana, explained her experiences with celebrating Holi in Nepal.
“When I was in 10th grade, what used to happen was two weeks before Holi, everyone was in a Holi mood,” Acharya said. “We were very mischievous. We would throw water balloons at students and then hide.”
Acharya said the main purpose of celebrating Holi is to illustrate the victory of good over evil, in which she said that if one follows a good path, they will encounter good things.
Additionally, Mariya Mamman, a freshman from Nigeria, adjoins the significance of spreading cultural awareness within the Augustana community. Events like Holi are meant to introduce a new culture to students and contribute to building a better community. Mamman highlights how important it was to her to support international students during events like Holi.
“I do it all the time, a hundred percent of my personality is being Nigerian and African,” Mamman said.
Learning the history of Holi is also part of the celebration on campus. The Holi festival was founded upon century-old stories about Hindu deities according to a Britannica article written by Nora Gonzalez. These stories carry themes that reiterate the victory of good over evil and celebrate the presence of love, happiness and goodness.
One of the most admired Hindu mythologies is the story of the demon king, Hiranyakashipu, who enlists the help of his sister Holika to kill his son, Prahlad, because he worships the Hindu deity, Vishnu. For that reason, Hiranyakashipu attempts to burn his son by ordering him to sit with his sister, Holika, on a pyre.
However, the demon king also gives Holika a fire-resistant cloak. While sitting on a pyre, the cloak that was supposed to protect Holika from the fire instead protects Prahlad. Later on, the Hindu deity Vishnu succeeds in killing the demon king, Hiranyakashipu. Today, Hindus around the world light the pyre the night before Holi to celebrate this victory of good over evil.
Another mythology that best explains the beliefs that follow the Holi festival is the story of Krishna and Radha. Krishna, considered a manifestation of the Hindu deity, Vishnu, falls in love with Radha, the milkmaid. Because of his blue skin color, Krishna fears that Radha wouldn’t like him so he playfully decides to smear Radha and all the other milkmaids with color during a game. In summary, the story emphasizes the foundational truths of celebrating love and happiness in the world.
The Holi festival is one of the most colorful festivals in the world. It brings together many types of people to celebrate love and happiness.