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HOLI: Festival of Colors

During the month of March, going into April, I was able to work on Elon's annual Holi festival. Holi is a festival celebrated annually around the end of February or early March. Though originating in India, Holi festivities take place in a variety of countries all over the world. Predominantly celebrated in South Asia, Holi is recognized as the country's most vivid and joyous festival. Typically spanning two days, the eve of the Hindu holiday is when traditions commence, but the actual day of Holi is the most anticipated due to the fun that ensues. The festival marks the beginning of spring after a long winter and it signifies the triumph of good over evil.

Due to a number of legends, various Holi origin stories exist. The one that is the most popular is the tale of Hiranyakashipu and his son Prahlad. According to the legend, Hiranyakashipu was a king with invincible powers who demanded everyone in the kingdom worship him, and if they didn't, he would punish or kill them. Betraying his father, Prahlad chose to worship Vishnu instead. The king did not like this, so he asked his sister, Holika to help kill Prahlad. Using a fire resistant cloak, Holika attempted to trick Prahlad by taking him into a fire, but since she was using her cloak for evil, it flew off of her and onto Prahlad. Prahlad was saved and Vishnu defeated Hiranyakashipu.

Bonfires are lit on Holi to celebrate the victorious win, and people sing and dance around the bonfire on the eve of Holi to signify the burning of evil spirits. The following day, Holi, is a time to let loose and celebrate life. Family and friends gather to playfully throw colorful paint and bright powders at each other and in the air, fully immersing themselves in many colors. Each of the colors during Holi holds different meanings: red symbolizes love and fertility, yellow is the color of turmeric (a powder that is native to India and used as a natural remedy), blue represents the Hindu God Krishna, and green is for new beginnings.

For the Holi festival at Elon, we had lots of powdered colors that was thrown at everyone that attended this celebration. We also had students that practice this tradition, come up and speak about their own experiences and what Holi means to them. After that, we had an Indian dance group called Surtal, perform a traditional dance. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the event because I fell sick, but my partner, Claire, and I did put together the entire event.

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